REVIEW: “To Rebalance the Body” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “To Rebalance the Body” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 199-212 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I was a bit surprised that this story didn’t come with a content note, so I’ll add one of my own — if body-modification or vampirism isn’t your thing, avoid this story.

Ordinary vampires are generally neither my thing nor not my thing, but Master Viiren in this story is no ordinary vampire. With all their usual skill, Takács takes a character type and turns it into something on the border between creepy and unsettling. Master Viiren has an illness for which they take medicine, a medicine which they receive from vesicles on the skin of their servant, Biruyan. There is a deep physical intimacy between the two, and the narrators obsequiousness to their master makes it almost uncomfortable to witness.

What was not so uncomfortable, for me at least, was the direct way in which both Biruyan and Master Viiren confront the problematic consequences of adherence to a gender binary and a sex binary. While issues of gender and sex are threaded throughout the stories in this volume, only a few of the stories explicitly revolve around the topic, and its strongest in this one. It’s one of the thins that I’ve loved about this collection as a whole: How much gender matters, but how much also it doesn’t have to be central, but (on the third hand) how much it also can be the central guiding force of a story, and also how gender and sex are intertwined.

(First published in Nerve Endings, ed. T. Hill-Meyer, 2017).

REVIEW: “Recovery” by Kate Sheeran Swed

Review of Kate Sheeran Swed, “Recovery”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

For anyone who complains there are not enough SFF stories featuring eldery women MCs, this is a story for you! We learn in the second paragraph that Penny, the narrator, is eighty-six years old, and soon after that we learn that she — like everyone else — has the option of reliving four minutes of her life but — unlike everyone else — she’s lived 86 years without taking up the option. Most people use their 4 minutes long before they ever get old.

Based on a fun, fluffy premise, the story nevertheless has a good depth, balancing the serious question of what one could (or should) do if they got a four-minute redo with a lovely depth of humor. As Penny and her roommate Molly make their escape from the nursing-home to chase down the Well-Dressed Man, at times I found myself grinning in pleasure, and at times I found myself surprisingly touched.

REVIEW: “The Wiser Move, the Better Choice” by Katherine Kendig

Review of Katherine Kendig, “The Wiser Move, the Better Choice”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The philosophical premise of this story is the relationship between prophecy and free will — if the oracle at Delphi has decreed that Perseus will one day kill his grandfather, what chance does Perseus have in avoiding his fate? (Not that this is the story at hand here — Prophecy-touched Rien and Tia who makes her question her belief in her own free will are nothing like Perseus and the oracle — but it’s a good illustrative example.) I really enjoyed the precise, argumentative, back-and-forth between Rien and Tia, especially Tia’s insistent picking at Rien’s fundamental principles, it appealed to the philosopher in me. 🙂 While the focus of the story was Rien, the influence of Tia on Rien’s life — an influence nearly as strong as Prophecy itself — pervaded the story, and I enjoyed that.

REVIEW: “Don’t Stop” by Reneé Bibby

Review of Reneé Bibby, “Don’t Stop”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death of a parent.

LSQ doesn’t do that much straight-up horror, but that’s what this story feels like. I’d classify this story as “solid but not surprising”, relying on the standard trope of don’t-stop-for-hitchikers — but there’s a reason that that trope became a trope! It works — were it not for one surprising, or at least unexpected, choice, namely, one of the secondary characters is deaf. That was a plus for this story in my book, but minusing it out was the way that mental illness as pathologized. So in the end, I came away from this story rather ambivalent.

REVIEW: “Keep Moving” by Raluca Balasa

Review of Raluca Balasa, “Keep Moving”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In this creepy dystopian story, Sarrai lives in a world where social structures are set up to systematically destroy any chance of forming an emotional connection with other people. Love is decried as a spell “that made them hurt when the others did”, and children must be kept moving from one child-rearing institution to another, never knowing their caregivers’ names until they are old enough to do so without forming an attachment to them.

This is quite possibly one of the most horrific foundational principles I’ve ever come across in a story.

REVIEW: “The Gold Chain” by Lucy Stone

Review of Lucy Stone, “The Gold Chain”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

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!