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    pithy prose make for a luminous tone

    “Thread” is the title story in this collection by first-time author and chemical engineer, Eric Halpenny, but it also refers to the thread of conversation woven between the stories (always cut short by one unwilling conversation partner until the final dialogue), as well as the theme that ties together these tales: what really motivates our actions, what calls to us from outside the ordinary. In the first story, siblings eke out an existence for themselves and manage to help one weaker than themselves, too, who ends up giving back beyond the scope of his short life. Then comes a sad narrative about a soldier in Vietnam so traumatized by what he has to do that he becomes like the living dead, “not dead enough that anyone would dig him a grave” (67). Third is a ghost story in which a child makes a doll that summons a witch, an eidolon. “Conflict” is historical fiction, based on real experiences by the 7th battalion of the 1st Canadian infantry in WWI. Jump from real-life to science fiction in the next story about time travel and sociological studies. What happens when our subjects become The Subject, someone to whom we can relate? Lastly, the spy is spied upon in a story about Soviet Russia and Ukraine. The collection ends with the conclusion of the on-going conversation. Two unnamed conversants try to understand the other’s viewpoint and come to common ground. What is our understanding based on? Upon what do we rely in our experiments? Can we believe everything we know? The author leaves us with both questions and answers, all explored through introspective characters and twists of plot. What I liked best is the unpredictability of each ending and the sparse, pithy prose.
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