Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wakulla Springs, by Andy Duncan

Wakulla Springs is one of those places I've always dreamed of visiting. It's the largest and deepest freshwater springs (some say in the world). It's been the home of manatees and monsters, and, once upon a time, movie-stars, too. Wakulla Springs is also Hugo nominated original fiction (novella) and I was able to read it as a free download, courtesy of the publisher, Tor.

I read a huge variety of fiction, so something that carries a bit of speculation, magical realism, and history is a treat to read.  To me, the best kind of science fiction is that which can actually dip into our daily lives and swirl around in the undercurrents of our world. Sure, big, scary monsters, or sleek metal warriors are science fiction fun, too, but give me the stuff that lurks in the shadows and I'm happy. This novella took a place that has captured my imaginings since childhood, wrapped them up in a historical context and tied them with a pretty ribbon of surrealism. The story is really a multigenerational one, beginning with Mayola, a young black girl who works at the Lodge at the Springs, when Hollywood came to call. It's a wonderful glimpse into the filming of one of the Tarzan movies, with Johnny Weissmuller. The first part of the novella, Mayola's story, captures not only the days before segregation, but also the last days of Roosevelt's reign. I was not alive then, but the world of my childhood arose from that era, so there were many, many everyday things that caused me to reminisce: buffalo head nickels and mercury dimes, pulling a bottle of RC out of an ice cooler at the store and adding salted peanuts, even the feeling of cotton absorbing perspiration on your back on a sunny summer day. When the author wrote "the air felt thick and close, like it was considering changing it's name to steam.", I knew I'd felt that.

The story moves on, often with abrupt endings between sections, which allows the reader to fill in the blanks. I'm sure it bothered some, but I was okay with it. Mayola's son and her granddaughter take the focus of the next three sections, but always Wakulla Springs weaves through the tale. If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of something strange and sinister lurking in the waters and forest.

Tags: e-book, i-liked-it, made-me-look-something-up, places-i-have-been, read, set-in-the-south, tor, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

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