cover image Seven for the Apocalypse

Seven for the Apocalypse

Kit Reed. Wesleyan University Press, $17.95 (218pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-6382-8

Reed's work (Weird Women, Wired Women; J. Eden) is sometimes arresting, sometimes simply an idiosyncratic blend of feminism and science fiction, represented at its most ambitious by the novella ""Little Sisters of the Apocalypse,"" which takes up more than half the pages in this collection. Written and first published six years ago, but now available in book form for the first time, it is a story of women whose men have gone off to a nameless war (""the ultimate sexist act""), their ambivalence about the males' return, the split within their island community between man-haters and those resigned to living with them and a band of biker nuns who ride to their rescue. It is strikingly visualized and has some genuinely shocking moments, but is marred by some (apparently intentional) banalities, and by the curious interweaving, in brief parentheses, of references to the death of the author's father, a WWII hero; the empty life, long illness and death of the author's mother; and the religious education of the author (""Before feminism, the nuns were the first feminists""). These insights into the author's life are individually affecting but fail to integrate into the imagined narrative. Of the seven briefer stories, ""Voyager"" is a touching tale of the vulnerability of old people in a Florida hurricane; ""River,"" the most successful, is a chilling study of an advanced electronic security system that comes to cherish one of the family it is designed to protect, with hellish consequences. ""In the Palace of the Dictator"" is a surreal excursion into the soul of totalitarianism. Reed's stories are strikingly imagined and tautly written, but often they are undercut by a sense of an urgent subtext that somehow fails to be communicated. (June)