Series: The Paean of Sundered Dreams
Published: 2015 by Irrational Worlds
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I discovered J.M. Guillen’s works when I stumbled upon his short stories while killing time on the internet. I ended up killing a lot more time that day than I had planned, because the stories were quite good, and then moved on to his series of short fiction entitled The Paean of Sundered Dreams. As I read more and more of the series, they begin to feel interconnected by common threads, despite vast differences in subject matter and genre, spanning from erotica to the zombie apocalypse. However, each story is united by the sense that is incomplete, and by the sense that the world could still be either saved or doomed, depending on what a protagonist does next.
This leads us to The Wormwood Event, one of the newest installments in the series. The story begins with a computer programmer named Grace (I am also named Grace, which made me smile) who receives a mysterious package in the mail. She shoves it aside, and doesn’t open it. But then, the event happens. Everyone goes a little bit crazy for a while, and some people never come back from it. Grace does, but her roommate goes full on zombie. She runs away, taking the package with her. When she opens it, she begins to piece together a pattern in which the Wormwood Event begins to make sense. She realizes that the annihilation of life as she knew it made mathematical sense, and that many wars and disasters throughout history were deliberate efforts to appease Lovecraftian gods with blood sacrifice. Now, the pattern has been disrupted, and only Grace can figure out how to stop it.
One of the things that fascinated me about The Wormwood Event is that Grace is either the only sane person left in the world, or the zombies have gotten to her and she’s gone batshit. Her own form of madness and single-minded obsession with figuring out the equation doesn’t seem so different than mental impairment caused by proximity to the zombies. And yet, I found myself hoping that she’d be able to figure out a way to make things right, even though accepting that reality throws you into such a moral grey area that there might not even be a right or a wrong anymore. It’s short, simple, and thoughtful, and I find myself wanting to read more of Guillen’s tales so that I can continue to piece together what went wrong in each of these worlds, and whether the characters I’ve grown to love are doomed.