Recommended: The Choices, by Michael Graeme

The myth of the eternal return is one of those bottomless founts for speculative fiction. What if you could do it all over again? What would you do this time? If only this instead of that had happened. If only you could get a second chance. It’s fertile ground, often trod, but like clay can be shaped anew in the hands of every one who picks it up and plays with it. Michael Graeme has a nice take on it here in this story. There is no reincarnation, no continuous replay of the same day a la Groundhog Day, but one’s entire life, as it is, rewound and replayed over and over again seemingly for eternity, each time allowing for all the paths not taken to be taken, for each one to lead out into its own ending, and yet to have to start all over again no matter what the outcome. The narrator has done this so many times that he has narrowed down the critical juncture of his life to one night in one hotel bar and the set of possible alternatives presented to him there. He has come to believe that the cycle can only be broken when the one “correct” choice has been made, when the real and true destiny is selected and followed through to the end. We cannot know if he is right about that, and the ending leaves us suspecting that there is no end, there is no right choice, there are only “the choices”. If, as the expression goes these days, “it is what it is”, then these choices “are what they are”, and each of us are limited to a certain set. It may be a large set – the imagination boggles at all the possible twistings and turnings of fate that can occur at any instant – but a finite set nonetheless. We are here and now, in this time and place, and nowhere else, and as no one else. In the final analysis, wherever you go, there you are. Michael Graeme tells this story as clearly, as calmly and as compellingly as he always does, taking you down another road well worth traveling.

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