Unfortunately, this story didn’t quite do it for me. As a reader, I felt like I was trying to piece together the setting and the context, and reasons why I should be invested in Khane and her miraculous discovery, but that I didn’t have all the pieces to do so. You know how sometimes you read a story and you get a feel that there is so much more that the author knows that they aren’t telling you? I got the opposite feeling here, which unfortunately detracted from my ability to enjoy the story. I did like the hints of Jewish/kabbalistic background that I got, though. I always want more fantasy stories that are written outside the narrow medieval-white-Christian-European norm!
I found this story very unnerving, the way it wove in a thread of mythos that was firmly grounded in fundamentalist Christianity and capitalism. I read it all in one gulp, almost breathless, so powerfully did it suck me in and drag me along.
Review of Bogi Takács, “The Size of a Barleycorn, Encased in Lead” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 195-198 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Content warning: Mentions of nuclear warfare.
The story itself reflects its title, being small, compact, and feeling almost as if it is made up out of little kernels itself. Much of the story is constructed out of quotes drawn from other sources, primarily from the Old Testament and the Talmud, translated by Takács and then woven together into a beautiful whole. It’s just so well-crafted and constructed, there is aesthetic pleasure alone from that level, on top of the enjoyment deriving from the actual story. I just loved this one, possibly my favorite of the volume.
(First published in Uncanny Magazine 15, 2017).
This makes 2/2 of Mohlere’s stories that I absolutely adored. She has such skill in picking out setting, character, and action with fine precise sentences, no unnecessary words, and constructed to drive straight into your emotional core. In this one, one emotion that kept being tapped was laughter — so many lines that caused me to burst out with it! For example:
“What a curious thing,” the goblin said. “Why would anyone create such an object and then use it only to be rude?”
But it was laughter tempered with the feeling that only comes with the satisfaction of a deep longing.
I can’t wait till I get to read more of her work.
Review of Bogi Takács, “Unifications” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 181-193 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
As much as I enjoyed reading the collected published oeuvre of Takács, this story, original to this volume, excited me quite a bit. It’s the only one in the volume to not have a content warning, too.
It’s a story of a holy place, a hidden place, a place bound by rules that must not be broken, which Sára finds, and which she takes her friend Judit to see. But then Sára breaks the rules…
I found this to be quite a scary story, in that creeps-up-on-you-behind-your-back sort of unsettling terror. I loved it.
All too often, art has no — or not enough — place in science, both in science fiction and science fact. In Dae’s SF story, the titular artist plays a central role: Karla Becker is the one who had the important breakthrough in crystallography, she’s the one that people know that value. But when she cannot replicate her breakthrough of two years ago, her single-minded experiments on the very same crystals end up costing her job. What role, then, can the artist play?
The story started off feeling like it was going to be rather depressing and hopeless, but it did not end that way. I loved the feeling of hope, that art, and life, is worth fighting for, that pervading the ending.
Jian is sailing west down the Tonghai river, “toward the asterism her ancestors called Tiger King”, in search of fresh water. It’s been fifty-eight days since she’s seen another person, and four hundred and eighty-six since she last saw a tellerite.
This was a quiet, reflective story of living in the aftermath of the worst parts of climate change. At times it was beautiful — phrases like “picking up the afterbirth of a hundred civilizations” really resonated with me — and at other times it was cold — not yet hopeless, but serving to remind the reader that the world Jian lives in could be our own in the future. Parts of it touched upon myth, and other parts were calmly pragmatic. I really enjoyed this one!