Puzzle Box: Drinker Tailor Doctor Spy
As I recall, Whitney Reynolds pitched “Drinker Tailor Doctor Spy” to me by saying something like “guys kissing in a 2013 New York City that’s somewhere between Men in Black and the Citadel in Mass Effect.” To which I, being a reasonable person with a beating heart in my chest, shouted YES PLEASE perhaps more loudly than was strictly called for.
And Ms. Reynolds delivered. Writers have all sorts of strengths, and hers—at least, the one most prominently on display here—is character voice. The two pricipals in “Drinker” are utterly and completely themselves in every movement and moment of dialogue. She makes it look easy, which I will inform you that it is not.
Though the story is sharply focused on Lucian the doctor and Gaale the tailor, the world we catch glimpses of is a fascinating one. It feels very much like a present-day New York City, with cabs and subways and characters preoccupied with career ambitious neighborhood demographics, but those demographics include a variety of alien species, and ambitions can reasonably take one offworld.
I was particularly charmed by Lucian’s ongoing foibles, which were both charming and weirdly relatable. After his first flirtatious encounter with the charismatic Gaale (a member of the Thunaen race), Lucian returns home and goes searching for Thunaen pornography. What a completely reasonable thing for him to do!
Of Gaale’s physiology we receive just enough description to tantalize, without any tiresome/offputting enumeration of parts. This is a short story, and it does not try to sneak in any lessons on invented anatomy. The realities of living in post-alien NYC are acknowledged and depected with similar efficiency, but this is a story about guys flirting, and it is most concerned with delivering those goods.
Which it does, I should say, with admirable style and charm. Look, just buy the book, okay? Just… buy the book