Two Truths and a Lie • 2020 • Horror novelette by Sarah Pinsker

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Synopsis: Stella is in her 40s. She helps an old high-school friend cleaning out his late brother’s house. She’s only there for one day but that turns out horrific in several ways.

First, the brother was a compulsive hoarder with all the imaginable stink and dangers (think of getting buried under the trash). Then they discover remains of The Uncle Bob Show, a TV broadcast produced locally where little kids play around and Uncle Bob tells horror stories. Those stories appear to have affected the kids’ lives.

Stella is told to have been on the show but she didn’t remember. Which is no wonder, because Stella regularly lies so much that she can’t tell truth from lies anymore. 

Review: This novelette has been nominated for this year’s Nebula Award season (check out the list with references to online available stories and my reviews).  

There is nothing wrong with the story, I just hated all the horror elements. Well, that’s just me and your mileage might vary. Why can’t there be a trigger tag “beware the dragons” or “includes horror”?

Anyway, a good part of the story is exposition and I can’t imagine something more dull than reading a longish description of clearing trash. 

Stella seems to be a fine character first, helping her friend out and all. But then her inner world is explored and an ugly face peaks out telling all those lies. Not a person I’d like to stay in touch with, and so did her friends. 

The story blurs the line between reality, Stella’s lies, and reality-shifting prophecies of Uncle Bob up to a degree where the reader can’t identify anymore in which part of this continuum Stella currently is. I liked that part very well and couldn’t guess the ending of the story. 

Certainly not my cup of tea, but it might be yours if you’re a fan of horror stories.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Tor.com. Nominated for the Nebula Award.

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