REVIEW: “A Superordinate Set of Principles” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “A Superordinate Set of Principles”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 39-52 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: body horror.

Superficially, this is an aliens-in-a-living-spaceship story — but to characterise it as that would miss the deftness with which Takács takes something alien, strange, foreign, and makes it seem utterly normal. Since the story is told in a first-person POV, we only get bits and pieces of what makes the alien alien, all offered up so ordinarily that it takes a question like

“What could conceivably be wrong with humans?” (p. 40)

to jolt me away from a sense of familiarity to a sense of otherness. I tend to be quite picky about aliens in my SF, because so often they are all too human. But Takács’s narrator Ishtirh-Dunan is not human at all, and delightfully so.

The second aspect that I especially liked about this story was the way unfamiliar language was handled — another tricky thing to do well, especially in a written media. How does one represent in language things that one cannot even conceive of? Again, I found Takács’s execution of this [hmmm, I’d like to say “masterful” but that has problematic gender connotations; and “mistressful” is certain no better. Imagine this long excursus as a placeholder for the right non-gendered synonym].

This story was exceptionally well done.

(First published in Ride the Star Wind: Cthulhu, Space Opera, and the Cosmic Weird, edited by C. Dombrowski and Scott Gable, Broken Eye Books, 2017.)

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