I’ve not been reading much for the last month, but I’m slowly making my way through Kelly Link’s 2008 collection, Pretty Monsters. Last night, I read “The Surfer”. It’s a near-future sci-fi, in a world where Costa Rica is a major power, and flu pandemics are sweeping the globe. A teenager and his father have flown to Costa Rica to join a group of people who believe aliens are going to return to earth, but they end up held in quarantine with their plane’s passengers.
I’m not sure how exactly to describe it. Like many of Link’s stories, “The Surfer” is about people on the periphery of the fantastic and science fictional – ordinary people living ordinary lives, with these things happening around them but not the subject of the story. “The Surfer” isn’t about the aliens or the diseases, it’s about a boy who has lost his mother and isn’t close to his father, one who wants nothing other than to be a footballer. The people in the story feel very much like real, complex individuals.
The reason I wanted to post about this story in particular is that I was left a little stunned by it. I haven’t reacted to a story in this way in quite a long time, but “The Surfer” left me in awe of Link’s writing ability. I felt utterly inadequate in comparison – I cannot possibly imagine ever writing as well as she does. I was left speechless, and I’m insanely jealous.