The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel

The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity.

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Reuth’s friendship with Fish, the creative little girl he met after settling into his new home, was charming. Despite the large age gap and other differences between them, I was surprised by how much these two new friends had in common. They were both creative people who were misunderstood by most of the folks around them. Stubbornness was another trait they shared in common, although neither of them would have ever admitted it. The more similarities they discovered, the stronger I hoped that Reuth would live much longer than his doctors had predicted so they’d have plenty of time to inspire each other on future projects.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the world building in this tale. Ardabaab sounded like an interesting place when Reuth first mentioned it, but I never really got a sense of how this planet was different from Earth. Everything from the wildlife to the climate seemed pretty similar to what someone would find here based on the main character’s descriptions, and even those details were only mentioned briefly.

The ending fit the tone of the story nicely. There was exactly enough foreshadowing of what was about to occur. While I did catch onto those hints early on, they weren’t strong enough to spoil the final scene or make me feel like I already knew everything that was going to happen. It was precisely what it needed to be, and I appreciated that.

The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard) was a bittersweet tale I’d recommend to anyone who has ever wondered what their own legacy might be after they die.

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