Timeout by Neal Barrett, Jr.

Published: 2013 in Rayguns Over Texas

Genre: science fiction

Setting: an unnamed location on Earth, present day

Interest: I was provided a copy of the anthology and I’m slowly reviewing all the stories in it.

Summary: Vera Lea has received a letter requesting her presence. She doesn’t want to go, but Jones, the individual who sent the letter, offers her liquidation if she refuses. Vera Lea is transported somewhere else, where she meets a Grii (which looks kind of like intestines covered in slime). Turns out Earth and the Grii’s planet have been in conflict which will be resolved by a coin flip between the two representatives. The loser’s planet will proceed with voluntary annihilation. Vera Lea doesn’t even find out the result of the coin flip.

Final thoughts: This story was a hard one to follow. Vera Lea doesn’t see the world the way most people do. I’m not sure if she was a mystic or just had a significant mental illness. Regardless, she was a very unreliable narrator. I couldn’t tell what part of the world she was in, or even if it was present day or some post-apocalyptic world, even though she describes her morning walk. I really like to know what’s going on in a story in order to enjoy a story, and that didn’t happen here. And then the whole conflict comes down to a coin flip to decide which race will survive, and we don’t even find out the outcome. Not my favorite.

Title comes from: Maybe because it was a contest between the two races (although the contest was just a coin flip). Maybe because the contest was a timeout from Vera Lea’s regular life. I’m not really sure.

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