REVIEW: “The Plague-Eater” by Caspian Gray

Review of Caspian Gray, “The Plague-Eater”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 65-81 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

From the start of the story, a few things are clear: Todd, Miguel, and Pills have the comfortable rapport of the best of friends, and Pills is very ill.

What do two friends do when a third is sick? Anything they can to help, it turns out, and for Miguel, that “anything” includes seeking out a night nurse to help care for her — and not any old night nurse, but a plague-eater. (The fact that he can invite Todd along on a not-a-date is an added bonus.)

This was a wonderfully done story — there’s fantasy, with Miguel’s pursuit of the plague eater; there’s romance, between Miguel and Todd; but the central themes that run through the story are deeper, sadder. Pills’ slow succumbing to cancer. The importance of chosen-families. The isolation of blood-family rejection. — which keeps the reader on the edge of uncertainty concerning the outcome, right all the way up until the very end.

REVIEW: “Familiar” by kx carys

Review of kx carys, “Familiar”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 63-64 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Another vignette-type piece, “Familiar” is a brief slice in the live of Margaux and Cassia, witches and lovers. Cassia needs a familiar, and she wants a raven; Margaux thinks that’s gauche. Cassia doesn’t want another cat, and eventually she brings Margaux around.

Because the story was so short, there was little character development or anything else to give me a sense of why the resolution came about the way that it did. I would have liked to have seen more, to have this turned into a rounder, deeper story. But I’m glad Cassia got her raven in the end.

Review: “From This She Makes a Living?” by Esther Friesner

Review of Esther Friesner, “From This She Makes a Living?”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 43-63. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Esther Friesner has a pretty strong pedigree backing her up, with a Nebula Award, a huge stack of novels, plays, poems, and short stories to her name, as well as a popular Baen anthology series Chicks in Chainmail. I have to admit this is the first of her works that I’ve read, though. With that being said, maybe if you’re already a fan of her work you’ll really dig this, but personally it fell flat. The writing is good overall, and I hope it does work for you a lot better than it did me, though.

It’s a quirky and fourth wall-breaking piece of Jewish humor, with frequent interruptions and secondary narrative in the form of footnotes translating Yiddish words and phrases. The thing that most took me out of the piece was the frequent interruptions with the footnotes, as it began to feel like a joke that had been carried well past its expiration.

The story is set in a sort of in-between limbo-esque world where a bunch of Jews seem to get caught in a timeless existence, where people from all different time periods end up. Everything comes to a head when a young modern woman and a dragon are pulled into this world and the citizenry have to figure out how to deal with both the dragon and this independent young woman.

If you like quippy metafiction then this is probably a good piece for you, and it did start out as a good piece for me until it got a little stale, but it did grab my interest enough to check out more of Friesner’s work.

REVIEW: “Venus Conjunct Saturn” by Claire Rudy Foster

Review of Claire Rudy Foster, “Venus Conjunct Saturn”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 48-62 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Angie knows better than to give any credit to her horoscope. After all, she’s an actual scientist, and “She knew astrology was a qualitative, atmospheric science, like meteorology” (p. 48; dear reader, I may have snorked my tea reading that line.) Birthdays shouldn’t matter. The stars and planets aligning in the skies shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter that all the signs point against “Venus Conjunct Saturn”: Angie was going to go out with Kate anyway.

In an anthology that wants to center queer characters, this story does a great job. Angie is trans; Kate is bisexual. These things matter to the story, of course,—of course they do, how could they not?—but they somehow manage to be both the focus of the story and not the focus of the story at the same time. For awhile in the middle I was desperately worried that everything was going to go wrong for Angie and Kate but — spoiler — it doesn’t.

We need more happy ending stories like this one.

REVIEW: “In the Strange Places in the City” by Meghan Cunningham

Review of Meghan Cunningham, “In the Strange Places in the City”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 45-47 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This is more a series of vignettes than a story, painting six little pictures of the city. The little scenes are each lovely and evocative, but I find I don’t have much more to say about this piece than that.

REVIEW: “Perseus on Two Wheels” by H. Pueyo

Review of H. Pueyo, “Perseus on Two Wheels”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 35-44 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

It’s one thing when the gods start answering the prayers of their petitioners.

It’s another thing when they start answering the prayers of their petitioners…but not all of them, no matter how hard they prayed. When the gods didn’t answer Perseu Batista’s prayers, he “had to afford the transition all by himself, clandestine hormones and all” (p. 36).

Which turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing: For when “the king”, the one with the power to command the gods began to lose control, Perseu of all the people in Morro do Alderamin didn’t have to worry about losing what the gods had given, because they’d never given him anything, he’d bought his new body and his new life himself. Which means that he’s got nothing to lose, when he hears that the king has tied his daughter Andressa to the radio mast to sacrifice her to the gods.

It took a few pages for me to clock which story this tale was retelling, and then I grinned the entire rest of the way through. What a lovely, light-hearted, happy story.

REVIEW: “Master Brahms” by Storm Humbert

Review of Storm Humbert, “Master Brahms”, Apex Magazine 114 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

Seven versions of Master Brahms live together – six synths, or clones, and the original. Synths don’t like to think about being synths, so the original allows them each the illusion of such as much as possible. Things come to a head when six Brahms find that the seventh has been murdered by one of the remaining six, and the house computer has been compromised by whichever is the killer.

This is a satisfying closed room murder mystery. The murder is intriguing, but is also not the main point. No, the real question of this story is: which Brahms is the original? Deep down, that is the only question that matters to any of them, and the murder is just a way to bring that question into the foreground for them. I’ve read plenty of stories about clones, but I don’t recall ever seeing one about how a clone would psychologically cope with being a clone before. This is fresh, fascinating territory.