What’s Partial Eclipse all about?:
Partial Eclipse is a story about aliens – but not as we know them, and about the primal importance of dreaming.
What did I think?:
Graham Joyce has a real talent for blending a little bit of the supernatural into the lives of ordinary people and from the very first line of the short story Partial Eclipse, we are taken on a journey that will have an “other-worldly,” element:
“I know that Myra goes to bed every night and whispers, “Dear God please let the aliens come back.”
This is not just your typical alien story. These aliens are probably unlike anything you’ve ever read about before and were doing a very important job in our world. That is, they were the source of mankind’s creativity, storytelling, music, religion, scientific ideas and even jokes suggesting to our characters their visions through dreams. Unfortunately, they have now left and with them they took all opportunity for man to create something new.
The story focuses on a married couple, Jonathan and Myra who is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Each morning when they wake up they are desperate to know if the other has dreamed as it may suggest that the aliens have returned and things can return to normal. But seven years have passed since the aliens left Earth and when they ask each other the question, daring to hope after such a long time, there is a standard negative response. The desire for “something new,” seems to lie with the new generation who were born after the aliens departure and theatres are usually sold out when a new child prodigy performs, the audience desperate to hear something they haven’t already heard before. After seeing yet another suspected prodigy turn into bitter disappointment as the stories he tells are recognised, Jonathan begins to ruminate on the day the aliens left. Everyone can remember exactly what they were doing as is always the case with big events and the aliens appeared to each person in a dream in the form of a person/animal the dreamer has loved. They apologised for such a brief stay on the planet (five hundred thousand years to be exact), and hoped that each individual had enjoyed “the fruits of their presence.”
“Since then our stories have dried up. Our music has frozen, Our science is arrested. No one has had an original notion in seven years. We are lodged in the mud of time, fossilized. We are consigned to limbo, and the cold wind of uncreation howls in our ears like a demon. Our species, all of humanity, has become the preterite, the passed over. Our psychic teeth, pulled.”
The quote above, which is one of my favourites in the story, explains precisely the state that humanity now finds itself in. Myra even suggests that there were never really any aliens but that the voices in their dreams was the voice of God that gave them everything and then left them abandoned. It’s certainly an interesting concept and could be compared to an apocalypse or the end of the world as we know it. I don’t want to say too much more about the story but for some reason, this particular tale got right under my skin. I loved the unique way in which Graham Joyce’s imagination ran riot with this idea and I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in a world where we’ve “heard it all before,” and there is no scope for something original and different. For me the ending was absolute perfection and really rounded everything off quite nicely while suggesting hope for the future. Read this story and it will definitely stick in your head for a while, hard evidence of a master storyteller at the top of his game.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Fly And Its Effect Upon Mr Bodley by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories