Kaolin Fire engages in some “Testing” in a short-short about a group playing a game of cards with very high stakes. Fire provides tantalizing hints of an apocalyptic backdrop and suggestions about what may have happened to land the group of characters in their current harsh predicament, but the story focuses on the card game and the “testing, testing” message, mostly through dialogue; while this choice helps the story establish momentum quickly, it also shortchanges our emotional investment to a degree and makes it harder to grasp what is happening. I read this story several times, and while it didn’t exactly grow on me, I did appreciate it more with repeated readings. The slip from past tense in the second paragraph (“a table sat…”) to present tense in the fourth paragraph (“The tone drones on…”) remains a distraction-—especially considering the past tense returns a few paragraphs later. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if the storytelling had been more conventional. Despite these reservations, there is just enough in this tale for me to recommend it, though with a word of caution to any reader wary of violence.
Always happy with a recommendation. :)