What is it with me and talking dogs? In The Edge of Nowhere, by James Patrick Kelly, three sinister talking dogs show up, looking for a book that doesn’t exist. But then it’s doubtful that anything or anyone in Nowhere exists.
Rain manages the Very Memorial Library. Her boyfriend, Will, is trying to write The Great American Novel, only the latest of several impossible projects, like proving Fermat’s conjecture, or running a mile under four minutes. (Actually, that’s merely difficult, and happening steadily.)
Both live in a sort of Potemkin village with no one to come see it. Is it an afterlife? A simulation? Even the cognisphere that created it doesn’t seem to know. Perhaps because so little is explained, this story sticks with you.
And there are so many neat little details to entertain you even as you’re trying figure things out. It’s not fair to Girl in Landscape to say this, but its level of invention seems even sparser compared to this story. Right from the very first paragraph, there’s dogs in bowler hats, the Casa de La Laughing Cookie, and psychoactive cookie crumbs.
In an oddly flat climax, Will attempts one last impossible task which will surely kill him. Rain doesn’t try very hard to stop him, or even to talk herself out of trying to stop him. He goes. She lets go of all his physical trappings but remembers him by choosing to emulate the gift that made him different. She will never be the same, and neither will the cognisphere.