Friday, February 3, 2012

Story of the Week: Invasion

InvasionGrace Bridges's "Invasion" mixes scenes of Kafkaesque despair with ecstatic redemption. In an unnamed city, beams of light are coming from seemingly nowhere out of the sky. (Although the setting is never defined explicitly, references to the Southern Cross constellation place the story in the southern hemisphere.) Some suggest an alien invasion but "on clear days it was paramount to idiocy to suggest there were ships of metal in the empty blue sky. The light-shafts shining golden bright eclipsed even the glory of the sun." No one knows from where the beams come but they clearly originate in the heavens. Everyone puts their hopes in the scientists who are investigating the mystery and who will surely solve it for "science could answer any question."

Although no one is injured by this new phenomenon, Emil finds the light shafts terrifying, questions his sanity, and like many other residents seeks to avoid them. Bridges's description of the mental state of Emil and the city's residents is reminiscint of Kafka's landscapes of alienation. Consider the following passage:

[Emil] had fled to the city to seek normality in the noisy streets. There had been few people. Those he saw scurried along in the shadows with their heads bent down just like his. Everyone was running scared, and no one ever spoke of it. Secretly, they avoided talking about it. They feared being mocked, even though they shared the same fear.

On his way home from the bus stop one evening, Emil struggles but can think of nothing else but the lights. Memories of his past crash into this thoughts. He recalls his mother's grief when he left the church as a teenager. In another scene of Kafkaesque despair, Bridges writes:

[Emil] dropped to his knees and lay as one dead before the fence. He tried to crawl on towards home, but couldn't see where he was going. Reaching the middle of the quiet street, his mind worked overtime trying to figure it all out.... Against all better judgment, he opened his mouth and in desperation moaned, "God!"

Unlike Kafka's characters who never free themselves from the machinations of bureaucracy and industrial society, Emil's act of desperation turns his night to day.

Bridges's prose is clear and precise, well-suited to her subject matter. She evokes an atmosphere of alienating despair and pulls off a convincing description of Emil's redemption in this story of internal struggle. It becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses that Emil runs not from any external threat as from the truth within himself that he wants to deny. The only point at which the story seems lacking is when Bridges's glosses over the myriad decisions that messed up Emil's life without naming them. Extended flashbacks would interrupt the story's flow but giving these decisions some solid form would flesh out Emil's character and situation.


  1. Thanks Jeff! Glad you liked it, especially considering how old it is. I am digging up various old stuff to post, so look for more :)
    The review is much appreciated and you are right about the slack bit, too. The question is, do I try to fix it? Easy enough with an ebook...

  2. Wonderful, Grace. Looking forward to more stories like this one.

  3. It sounds like a really good book, Grace! If I ever get the time again to read more books, I'll have to check it out! ;-)