REVIEW: “Call Center Blues” by Carrie Cuinn

Review of Carrie Cuinn, “Call Center Blues”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

With just a few sentences Cuinn manages to capture the frenetic horror of modern-day multi-tasking life — IMing while sending an email while talking on the phone, all wrapped up in the horror that is working in a call center. Throw in some recalcitrant androids, and this story just seems to hit a lot of nails on the head. I thought this story was really well done — well written, snappy, nicely balanced with humor, and just good fun to read.

(Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, 2011.)

REVIEW: “True Colors” by Beth Goder

Review of Bethe Goder, “Rite of Passage”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact September/October (2020): 79–80 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Julia visits an AI that can allegedly read a person’s brain patterns and produce their perfect version of a work of art. But when Julia goes through the process, all she gets is a blank painting with nothing but layers of white on it.

Reading “True Colors,” I got the impression that there’s a deeper meaning in the painting metaphor, but I’m not entirely sure I get it. Something about the “deeper layers” of Julia’s personality, perhaps. I don’t there’s enough there to really come to a conclusion. Still, it was an a neat story and I enjoyed the idea of the artistic AI using something akin to machine learning to generate someone’s “perfect” work of art.

REVIEW: “The Past, Like a River in Flood” by Marissa Lingen

Review of Marissa Lingen, “The Past Like a River in Flood”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 311 (August 27, 2020): read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

A school for magicians is hardly a novel concept these days, but what raises this fast-paced fantasy to a high level is its narrator: a forty-something former student who has reluctantly returned to her alma mater for a reason that terrifies her. When Ellis was a student, the school’s original Vault of Potions was destroyed in a flood. Now, twenty years later, two students are “mysteriously dead, found sitting against the Vault wall without a drop of blood or a bruise on them.”  At least two people suspect how the deaths relate to the long-ago flood: Ellis’s mentor, still a professor at the school, and the school’s provost. Now they need Ellis’s skill as a geomancer to neutralize the “nasty forces” in the Vault that have been allowed to build unchecked for two decades. Before the story ends, Ellis will be betrayed and witness a murder, but she’ll also have an opportunity to teach an important lesson on what it really means to put the past behind you.

REVIEW: “Wayfarers” by Heather Morris

Review of Heather Morris, “Wayfarers”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: References to rape.

The titular wayfarers in Morris’s story are only vaguely hinted at, and the hints are not pretty — they are drug-users, they shriek and scream, they will rape “anyone they think can make babies,” as Meli, the head whore of Honeycomb, tells Athena, the narrator. As of the opening of the story, that class of people now contains Athena, whose period has just started and who “For twelve years I figured that one day I would wake up a boy. Bein’ a woman was worse than bein’ dead.”

Athena has to face not only the betrayal of her body but also the capture of her friend by the wayfarers. The only way to rescue the one is to come to terms with the other. In the end, I mostly felt sad for Athena. No one should have to feel resigned about being a woman, not when there are other options out there.

REVIEW: “Attrition” by Leslie J. Anderson

Review of Leslie J. Anderson, “Attrition”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story had a lot of Neon Genesis Evangelion overtones — a motley collection of people and mechs they must control in order to save humanity. But since it was a short story rather than a drawn-out TV series, a proportionally higher percentage of story space was spent explaining what the mechs were and how they worked. At the end, I kind of wanted more story, and less explanation. (I also think there was a continuity error — pretty sure the two references to Mr. Hernandez were supposed to be to Mr. Henderson. Props for the character in the wheelchair, though.)

REVIEW: “Into the Starfish Heart” by J. M. Wetherell

Review of J. M. Wetherell, “Into the Starfish Heart”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This one was a bit off the mark for me. I spent a lot of the story confused about chronology (partly, I think, because the initial paragraph set me up to think that Ledo the artist was dead, but then it turned out they weren’t? At least I don’t think so? Like I said: Confusion.), and despite the fact that at times it felt like there was a lot of back-story being dumped in a bit clumsily, I still never felt like I got a good picture of just what, exactly, the setting was. It was frustrating, because I wanted to understand what was going on, but never quite did.

REVIEW: “When the Moon Fell Down” by L. Lark

Review of L. Lark, “When the Moon Fell Down”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story surprised me with the deftness that it balanced upon fine lines — the line between urban fantasy and something richer and more wild, the line between witchcraft and madness. There were many times when I was uncertain how reliable a narrator Jone could be, and this uncertainty and tension gave a depth to this story that a lot of LSQ stories strive for but don’t quite reach.

My only complaint with the story was the use of the present tense, which I found so clunky it kept yanking me out of the story.

REVIEW: “Cara’s Heartsong” by Dawn Bonanno

Review of Dawn Bonanno, “Cara’s Heartsong”, Luna Station Quarterly 28 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Wow, this story, published four years ago, was surprisingly difficult to read in the current climes of mass protests and riots, and a lingering insidious disease. Bonanno I’m sure had no idea what 2020 would bring, but her story reads very much like a picture of our near future. Except for the bit where physiology doesn’t work the same way in Bonanno’s world as it does in ours — a very pleasant little bit of world-building that I enjoyed.

REVIEW: “The Question of the Blade” by Alex Yuschik

Review of Alex Yuschik, “The Question of the Blade”, Luna Station Quarterly 28 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

What a beautiful and satisfying story to read this was. It’s the story of two childhood friends, Fel and Bas, and the different ways their heritages and histories dictate their future. There was a richly built world in the background of them, and a steadfast love between them no matter what tried to keep them apart. I was only a little bit disappointed by the ending, because I would have liked space to have been left for more character development.

REVIEW: “Earth is a Crash Landing” by J. G. Formato

Review of J. G. Formato, “Earth is a Crash Landing”, Luna Station Quarterly 28 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Slavery.

This story was not at all what I expected. Celester, the narrator, is a self-described “Trashcan baby”, the sort of foundling who deserves to get stuck in a dead-end job issuing permits. And least, that is the facade that she puts up, not wanting to admit that there might be something else underneath her hard exterior. There are so many ways the story could then go, and none of the ways it did go were ones I could’ve imagined. There were twists and turns and hints and clues right the way through.