Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-518-0
Sci-fi Romance, 2011
In the distant future, the Grid has taken control of the… town? I’m not sure, honestly, and this short story doesn’t really go too deep into details. Let’s just say that the Grid is the master computer that bosses everyone; the place is like a typical creepy and bleak dehumanised futuristic town; and our heroine has tattoos, spiked hair, a cigarette-smoking habit, and a pretty bad day. She is trying to smuggle some drugs across town when she is caught and beaten up by her ex-boyfriend and his gang. Then comes Agent Smith, er, Dante. He dresses up in a blood-red twisted ideal of a priest, only he delivers death instead of salvation on behalf of the Grid. Oh, and he uses big words like “maltreats” and “malodorous”. Dante makes short work of Steel’s attackers and then drags her to his lair instead of killing her. But why? What is Dante up to?
This is a typical short story by Nathalie Gray, although it’s a tad slower than her usual stories. The setting comes alive despite a rather limited scope of world-building, the kinetic pacing is good, and the characters are memorable and fun. However, in this one, I find myself very distracted by the hero’s speech. I believe the author is aiming for some “old world” type of vibe to give Dante a distinctive trait, but I find his speech pattern odd and sometimes unintentionally comical. Fortunately, this story is short enough that his speech pattern doesn’t become too annoying.
Gridlock is short, breezy, and serviceable, and a part of me wishes that this story has been a bit longer. I love, especially, the closing sentence of this story – short, simple, but lovely and sweet. All in all, not a bad read at all.