Continuing my way through the excellent anthology, Dangerous Games, and following once more the advice of the equally excellent editor Jonathan Oliver, I set to reading South Mountain by Paul Kearney. Whilst I expected a re-enactment story about war games, I did not expect it to be so fine.
I think fine is the correct word. It’s both poignant yet restrained, both detailed but not overloaded. It’s crafted and subtle as opposed to Lavie Tidhar’s brutal effort in the same collection whilst carrying the same power.
Concerning a group of Civil War re-enactors, led by a grizzled Vietnam vet and joined by a first-timer skeptic, the tale sets out the characters and setting with a delicate touch. Each man is given their due and soon talk turns to the war and their feelings behind it. As the newcomer, and a black man at that, the protagonist is put on the spot by his Union chums. With his mind set on his ancestors as sleep drifts over their camp, things change from playing at war games to actually being in the war.
It is an interesting premise on the time travel trope, fuelled by the protagonists memories and feelings. It’s not a hammer blow but the author has delivered a subtle, moving story.
Published by Solaris