Short Story Review: DEATH OF AN AIR SALESMAN, by Rich Larson




Short stories by Rich Larson always proved to be fascinating reads, and this one was no exception, even though the core concept was truly depressing.  The future on this version of Earth looks quite bleak: pollution has reached such levels that the very air is contaminated and people must wear filter masks and protective clothing to stay outside.  Society has changed for the worse as well: people live in stifling cubicles called “sleepstacks” where they spend their rest hours laying down and watching videos, until it’s again time to go to work, moving like ants in a huge anthill.

Maya is an air seller: the company she works for bottles clean air that she peddles through the city’s milling throngs, hoping that her sale rates will make her win the lottery ticket granting the lucky recipients a vacation to one of the company’s air farms, where the sky is blue, the grass green and the air free and clean – or so the adverts say.  One day she notices a boy wearing a bright red scarf, a color that stands out in the dreary drabness of the city, and she does all she can to get his attention despite their conflicting work shifts and the thickness of the crowds, in the old, never tired game of “girl meets boy”…

What’s morbidly fascinating in this story is the depiction of the unnamed city, with its thick, murky air and the swarms of pedestrians moving to and fro in what looks like tired resignation. It’s easy to picture this urban sprawl where the only color comes from garish neon advertising signs, or the appalling image of a plaza “where there are still the husks of dried-out vines and shrubs spilling from cracked concrete planters” speaking of the death of any kind of vegetation and possibly of any hope for the future.  And yet there is a ray of light in the end, despite everything, because of the two young people meeting amid the devastation and daring to dream about the future.

A small ray, but I will take it gladly…


My Rating:


16 thoughts on “Short Story Review: DEATH OF AN AIR SALESMAN, by Rich Larson

  1. Ugh- this is a utterly fascinating concept to me.

    It reminds me of New Moon (Ian McDonald, not Twilight). On the Moon, every breath you take costs money. So if you run out of money….

    Anyway- I’ll have to check this story out. I’ve been meaning to read Larsen for awhile now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, this one had me with its title 😀 I’ve never read Rich Larson (though I think I have a book of his lying around here somewhere) but if this is typical of his work, I’d love to try him. I don’t mind dreary and bleak and depressing, as long as the premise is fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only seen his book Annex but haven’t read anything by him yet. This short story has an intriguing premise though and this makes me want to read some short stories. I still have an anthology (The Book of Magic) I need to go through before 2020 too. Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

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