The Ship Who Returned
The Shoulders of Giants
The Culture Archivist
The Other Side Of Jordan
Like They Always Been Free
The One With The Interstellar Group Consciousness
Golubash, or Wine-Blood-War-Elegy
Neilsville acts like Vatican II was never envisaged and everything is a mortal sin. While dated in places (a cassette tape provides a vital clue, Balsam has to order a phone installed and the teenagers hang out in a discotheque and smoke grass) this was very good. Vernon spews misogyny, the bullying of Marilyn is treated as a mere indiscretion, there is religious devotion, exploitation of religion, judgemental nuns, narrow minded incompetent parents, restless growing pains, useless medical staff, bizarre penances, non-existent medical confidentiality and Vernon’s study group acts like a tribunal. It is clear that Vernon’s attitude has shaped the town and its disproportionately odd reactions.
Balsam romances Margo. Vernon rants and is obviously the bespoke bad guy. Only Balsam notices there is something deeply wrong in Neilsville. But when he tries to do something to help he is expropriated for it. Then the suicides begin and even more tense and horrendous events involving 13th century Italians, orgies and mind control take place. This is a dark bleak tale of dehumanising impropriety ravaging the town. It is carried out by the cultural guard so the townsfolk just passively acquiesce to their intellectual weight. Balsam bemoans what is going on and is affronted by the barmy naked misanthropy surrounding him, but his fight back is only ineffectual feeble wittering.
The insufferable baddie is voracious in his in-bred arrogance and glowering malevolence. The fractious and aggressive townsfolk cower before him. This tale is a ridiculously gothic tale of increasingly heightened madness. Distraught teenagers - already not given to subtlety - act in infuriating ways and engage in sexual jealously and disconcerting self-destruction. Victims are propelled toward death by ingenious persistent tormentors who when not doing that, bellow sanctimoniously and make insinuations to tarnish the innocent Balsam as they themselves are held in voracious reverence. One by one by one the innocent suffer, the guiltily unjustly get away with it and Balsam is abandoned and turned on by everyone. Their personal animosity blinds the fools to the truth. The ending is a real downer and this was very good.
“She says he’s weird,”
“She doesn’t think they ought to be teaching psychology.”
“Mother says what Judy did was even worse than getting pregnant.”
“To help me bring the heretics back to the fold. To punish the sinners.”
“Three faded roses, and everyone there to make sure she was dead.”
“He was a prize bastard, wasn’t he?”
“They were doing the most disgusting things to you.”
“So Marilyn sat in her corner, half hoping to be left alone and unnoticed, half hoping someone - anyone - would come over to talk to her. No one did.”
“When that girl killed herself she committed a sin beyond redemption she has no rights within the church whatsoever.”
“In some places, it’s gotten so bad that entire wards of teen-age girls have had to be put under physical restriction to stop them from cutting themselves.”
“Everything was her fault. Everything that went wrong was her fault.”