Karen Joy Fowler. The Pelican Bar. (Eclipse Three, ed Jonathan Strahan.)

I didn’t get round to reading the first two volumes in this series, although a couple of stories in each were chosen for the Year’s Best anthologies. Having had two matching blue covers, #3 is a striking orange/yellow volume. What of the first story?

A rebellious teenager finally pushes her parents beyond the point of no return. Awaking one morning still spaced out on magic mushrooms, she finds herself taken from the family home, her parents wanting her de-programmed from the foul-mouth unco-operative monster that she is. But instead of a boarding school, she ends up some little better than a concentration camp. There’s a touch of the Gene Wolfe’s about the story, as there’s a suspicion that having gone into a drug-induced dream, perhaps she hasn’t come out of it. The regime is so harsh, and the parents willingness not to see her for two years, are such that perhaps something else is happening, and the final scenes, in which the girl, now 18, is released to find herself in the beach bar that has helped her through her ordeal, and that perhaps her captors were not human, but that, indeed humans can be inhuman, brings to an end an unsettling story without a conclusion. One to sleep on perhaps. Perchance to dream….

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