Darryl Halbrooks. Writing Reviews
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Fiction -- Winner: Darryl Halbrooks, "Eden"
"I was immediately intrigued by the use of the unreliable narrator in the short story, "Eden," a literary device that kept me hooked until the very end. While certain details made me nervous (like the nearby machine gunner, the accumulation of "signs," and the general xenophobia and paranoia the narrator exudes), I also found myself genuinely sympathetic for the person on the page I found talking to me about his life, his philosophy, his rules; I not only wanted to know him better, I wanted to know what had happened to him and his family that I would find him in such a situation. The subtext vibrates, providing enough clues to keep the reader's mind spinning while the details on the surface are as rich as they are unique. Most resonant is the motif of the snake as it twists itself throughout the narrative, but I also appreciate such specifics as the "Gardens of Eden" paintings the narrator produces (especially because Vernon Hickman is ready to take over the supply for this demand AND because of the way the narrator sneaks space ships into the otherwise Biblical landscapes). As the outside world continues to encroach, sometimes even trespassing onto the narrator's attempt at Utopia, we gain more and more insight into the causes of the effect. The open ending of the piece begs us to go back over all the details provided both between the lines and within; thus, long after we've finished reading, we are still working at this story just as this story is still working at us."