Zolitude

Paige Cooper. Biblioasis (Consortium, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-77196-217-9
Cooper’s debut collection is an intriguing but flawed mash-up of the fantastic, the dystopian, and the vaguely apocalyptic. One of the best stories, “Pre-Occupants,” relates the tale of three couples who have been sent to another planet as early scientist-colonizers. It gnomically catalogues their relationships and gossip, as seen when Paul and the narrator invite another couple over for dinner. In an act of unexplained weirdness, one of the guests, Tava, uses hair clippers to shave a strip of her blond hair. Each member of the colonizing crew has had isolation training, which, as one of the characters remarks, means that “the cure is also the cause” of their social isolation and bizarre interactions. “Slave Craton” moves around in time before and after a semi-apocalyptic environmental disaster, layering a disturbing love triangle among a young man, his ex-girlfriend, and an emotionally intense ecowarrior over philosophical discussions about what it means to be a good person. Less successful is the title story, set in a brutalist housing development in Riga, Latvia. It tells the simultaneous stories of a relationship falling apart and a nascent long-distance one, both characterized by ambiguity, narcissism, and dishonesty, but it never manages to feel coherent or purposeful. Cooper has a keen eye for the quirks of human behavior and is skilled at capturing individual moments, but she is less adept at making them add up to something bigger. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
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