Strange Horizons, 01/21/08

“How to Hide Your Heart” by Deborah Coates opens, like far too many short stories, in a bar. Thankfully, this one is well worth the read despite the cliched start. We have here a man, nameless perhaps, or maybe not. In truth, he has any and every name he wants. Let’s go with Max. It doesn’t matter. He’s out for the night with Amy, a girl he knows is good for a fuck but won’t have her heart broken come morning. At the bar, Amy introduces him to Beth, a mousy girl that, for the most part, doesn’t matter. Except that she’s their designated driver. And our narrator, despite Amy nibbling at his ear on the ride home, can’t help but notice many things about Beth: the way she can’t smile, the way she’s a fine driver, the way she gets on without getting noticed, the way she might just be the girl he needs…

The story starts out innocent enough, making me wonder just what were in for this time around. There was no clear indication that I was heading into anything speculative fiction, but I don’t give up easily. By the first scene change, we get it. He’s hunting legendary creatures. Dark things. Such as a wendigo. Or, uh, not-zombies. Ahhh. The plot thickens.

“How to Hide Your Heart” turns itself up a notch with some great action scenes as our deep-thinking and somewhat battered Max battles against these Things. Coates has a nice way to her writing, its tone both friendly and familiar. Quite welcoming. I found the descriptions of usually trite details like clothing or friends of a friend to be rather well-done. The ending more than makes up for the beginning, and there’s definitely something appealing in a story that has both kissing and shotgun-weilding. Looking forward to either more of these characters and the Things, as well as other entries from Deborah Coates.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10


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