“Effigy Nights” by Yoon Ha Lee; a review


I just read Yoon Ha Lee’s “Effigy Nights,” appearing in The Years Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton (pages 84-94). While reading, I dreamt of my nights during college chopping up literature, devouring sweet-magical protagonists with mustard, scissoring texts into papers and essaying thought comics for my English professors. I loved the hunt of literature to the point where I am the attacking alien force waiting for the text to bleed for me.

Trying to figure out Lee’s text, I spent an hour shifting “Imulai Mokarengen”, the name of the city the story takes place in, to see if it is an anagram. I came up up with “I am ink ergo a lumen” or I am ink, therefore the light. Essentially, the city is living ink or try this: “this text is a city of living ink.”

This is one of those moments in textual analysis when the reader smiles and lusts madly, thrusting paragraphs like the following:

Imulai Mokarengen has been unmolested for over a hundred years. People come to listen to the minstrels and drink tea-of-moment-unraveling, to admire the statues of shapeshifting tigers and their pliant lovers, to look for small maps to great fortunes at the intersections of curving roads. Even the duelists confront each other in fights knotted by ceremony and the exchange of poetry. (pg 84)

I’m not going to dig any further because the text itself is prose poetry and I do not want to interrupt text and eyeball sex. I will tell you my favorite line: “The poets, in particular, were not becoming any less loud, especially when one of them was shot in the head” (pg 88).

Please read this story. It is a trap for the eyes and a tattoo for the soul.


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