FeatherPenClipArtThis novelette was published in Asimov’s. It uses a SF gimmick, but I don’t think it’s SF.

Reed, Wylene and Celeste Godfrey’s house in Arkansas is blown away by a tornado. They move to Wriggly, GA, so Reed can take a job offered by one of his old army buddies at the local Feed & Seed. The town has an ordinance that each house has to have a BioQuirked rattler watch-snake. Wylene is not happy with this, but the family is determined to get along because they need Reed’s job. The townspeople turn out to be obsessed with the snakes, even though there seem to a number of deaths annually from snakebite. The town’s doctor Lakshmi Chakraborti finally takes a stand against the snakes, leading to predictable conflict.

Michael Bishop is a well-established SF writer with a number of published novels and short fiction out there. He also has a list of award nominations and a few wins. However, I don’t care for his writing style. Is this story humor? Satire? A comment on gun culture in the South? There are also issues with the writing, including characterization and world-building. These are working-class Southerners, but they use words like pique, père and passé, plus a lot of adjectives and adverbs that don’t sound much like South Georgia. The situation looks like an alternate universe, as there seem to be no guns. Reed was a bowman during the Australian war, and all of the men carry snakes instead of guns. Is this part of a longer work that will explain more? And why is Tennessee such a refuge?

I’m going to give the story 3 stars. It gets extra points for the satire, but that’s heavy-handed. Also, characterization, language, world-building and theme are poorly carried out.

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