Thursday, 10 March 2011

Aaron M Wilson: The Many Lives of Inez Wick

I first ran into Aaron as part of the Hive Mind writers' collective (quite a peripheral part in my case, because I keep forgetting about it). This collection of short stories is published by a slightly different collective, under the Everything Feeds Process Press label. It can be found here.

From the blurb: The red LCD display quickly counts down. There is no time to waste. The polluting, resource-degrading plant is set to explode. Eco-heroine Inez Wick has only minutes to escape. As she traverses the dark recesses of the dirty plant, she flashes back to a younger self, sixteen. Her father had just died in an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, and she had just broken up with her boyfriend. She remembers oily ocean water and flames, her footprints in the sand filling with black water. Flames were chasing her. They were jumping from one oily footprint to the next, up the beach after her. Snapping back to the present, she must get out of the plant. The exploits of Inez Wick could not end, just now. Too many others needed to pay.

My Thoughts: This is a strongly themed little collection of short stories, with the clever idea of taking the alternate life paths of a single character as a way of exploring a variety of mostly environmentally based issues. Inez Wick appears at different stages of her life as everything from eco-terrorist to academic to simple bystander in plotlines that touch on everything from petrol use to water pollution, but which never lose sight of the need for a decent story, and seem as prepared to take on the extremes of environmentalism as humanity's effects on the planet.

It's a fast read, and never gets too bogged down. Aaron certainly has the knack of plotting things well, and for playing around with different facets of his main character without ever losing the sense of her being a single human being. There's a nice mix of action, development and message too.

There were a couple of small irritations for me. The whole text needed much better proofreading, and while the arrangement of stories probably makes sense from a point of view focussed on the rhythm of the book, it does make it much harder to follow any of the alternate history strands with any confidence. Also, since the majority of the pieces are reprints, there's the sense of not having gotten that much that's new if you've read Aaron's work before.

So should you read it? Being so strongly themed, the answer to that will come down at least partly to your interest in green issues. Assuming that you have at least some interest, however, it could be worth giving this one a try for a fun little read with some interesting points to make.

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