Writing this short story was an exercise in restraint – I held back on the violence so hard that you can feel it under the skin of the main character. He barely moves and says very little but you can hardly take your eyes off him. As the first story in the Exodus Sequence, I set about creating a mystery that would unfold obliquely through the other stories. Huge questions are asked: who is the prisoner, is he an alien, was there a war, why is everyone locked up in wire cages. But the biggest mystery of all may be the scenes that directly involve the main character and the telepathic girl. The story becomes almost incomprehensible at this point and I’ve had readers mention that they didn’t actually understand what was going on. This is entirely the point – but never fear, the mind games are delved into further in several of the other Exodus stories. The story’s strongest connection is with “Caged” which is the last novelette in the sequence. I think this is a four star story, losing one star for its possible lack of comprehension.
This review contains potential plot-spoilers and explanations that would make more sense if read AFTER you’ve read the novelette!
REFLECTED was an experiment in obfuscation. My heroine goes through the entire story without having any idea what is going on and neither, I have to presume, does the reader. It was quite delicious to write! A monumental event takes place on what one can only presume is Mars and is witnessed by Jennifer Reed (although we can’t be sure this is her name.) This event, an invasion, has repercussions throughout the rest of the Exodus Sequence – the first volume and the still-to-be written second. But in this entry of the sequence, the invasion is less important than the identity of Jennifer Reed. When she connects with one of the aliens, he identifies her as Miranda, a character whose background role will be immense in the remainder of the sequence. This alien – whose name we never learn – is the same as the one in WIRED, though the order of events are not yet clear. This is, after all, only the second in the Exodus Sequence: by the time you get to the end, much of the smokescreens will have cleared.
The story opens with a ticking clock – having struggled to sleep (or, at least, remain asleep) half my life, that ticking clock is possibly the most annoying sound in the entire universe. I thought it a most appropriate noise to signify death. And if you understand that Jennifer is dead, the story may resonate more.
What I enjoyed most about writing this story was Jennifer’s first experiments with time, space and reading other characters. My most-loved scene is the one where glass rains through her. It may be mystifying but I wanted the story to be nothing less than beautiful.
This is one of my favourite Exodus stories but I’m conscious that my experimentation might have gone too far, hence I’ve been particularly cruel to myself and only given it three stars. One day, perhaps, I’ll find out what readers really think!