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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family" by Usman T. Malik

First appeared in Qualia Nous. I believe it will be reprinted by Rich Horton. Online.
Tara Khan loses her brother, Sohail, to revenge himself on those who took his love.  Meanwhile, Tara loses the last of her family, her mother, so that she is seen as a seductress and troublemaker to the villagers. She leaves to educate herself. When terrorists attack the City, she goes off to find the Monster: Annunaki.

The story's successes are its title, metaphors, turns of phrases, prose, and a beautiful structure, mirroring a family's dissolution to both the states of matter and the state of the nation. Some phrases, though, need work: Mostly abstractions trying to be concrete and metaphors that don't quite work:

"She shuddered at the thought," 
"leprous grins" 
"Kites and vultures unzipped the darkness above in circles" 
"It impaled her with its familiarity and a dreadful suspicion grew in her that the beast was rage and wore a face she knew well."
Primarily, though, Tara outside much of the action, outside the heart of the story. If we don't experience critical events, it's harder to feel what we're meant to feel at the tale's climax.

No doubt these habits will disappear as Malik grows as a writer.  We do see much skill in rendering a culture uncommon to the genre and a loving care for his prose and characters. One looks forward to Malik's bright future as a writer.

A discussion of his earlier story, "Resurrection Points", can be found here. Both stories admirably treat the problematic issue of violence within a culture.

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