REVIEW: “Halfway Through the Dark” by Alexis Ames

Review of Alexis Ames, “Halfway Through the Dark”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a wonderfully cosy steampunk mystery, which I enjoyed a lot. The characters felt rich and familiar, as if this was but one episode in a series of stories. I’m now interested to see if Ames has written about Kate and David before, or if she’ll write about them again in the future!

REVIEW: “Assyrian Machinery” by Anne Elise Brinich

Review of Anne Elise Brinich, “Assyrian Machinery”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The setting of the story in ancient Assyria appealed to me from the start (I have a fondness for the ancient Near East, and I once did some intensive research on ancient Babylon for a story of my own, and I could tell, while reading this, that Brinich has done a similar amount of research, as I recognised a lot of the telltale details), but the story itself was what impressed me: Characters I cared about from the first paragraph, moments that pierced my soul, two threads of building/making and family/sisterhood entwined together in a beautiful manner, and sharp, sudden, unexpected ending. This was another first-rate publication in this month’s LSQ.

REVIEW: “Giant Beach” by Amy Porter

Review of Amy Porter, “Giant Beach”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Oh, this was a lovely story! As global warming increases, and more and more icebergs melt, the remains of a long-extinct species come to light, parts of their bodies washing upon the shores of Iceland. One day, an eye, whole and perfectly preserved for so many millennia, washes up — and “After weeks of nothing in my life mattering”, the narrator tells us, “suddenly something did”. The story of their journey to the giant beach, and their experience of looking into the giant’s eye, is both tender and intimate; Porter’s beautiful writing makes it feel like we’re there beside the narrator, watching without intruding. Beautifully crafted.

REVIEW: “Vó Úrsula’s Magical Shop for Soul-Aches” by Victoria V.

Review of Victoria V., “Vó Úrsula’s Magical Shop for Soul-Aches”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This issue of LSQ is full of good titles — intriguing ones that draw me in and seem to tell almost as much of a story as the story itself — and this is another one of them.

The titular shop is the backdrop for the lives of cousins Benjamin and Berenice dos Santos — students at the local university involved in all the usual student activities, geometry, activism, surreptitious publication in the free press. The story is a mixture of otherworldly-fantasy (the world they live in could be any world, not ours) and descriptions (such as “The government had promised to fight crime, but much of the violence and fear that haunted the cities came from the so-called law enforcement, as well.”) that feel very much like pointed comments on our own current society.

And I’m also a sucker for the first shy blushes of a queer romance, so thumbs up from me for this story! I would totally read a longer/novel-length story based on these characters.

REVIEW: “Many Mansions” By K.J. Parker

Review of K.J. Parker, “Many Mansions”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 313 (September 24, 2020): Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

If you’re a fan of K.J. Parker’s work, as I am, you’re likely to enjoy this story—the first of four in BCS’ over-sized 12th anniversary issue. I have read many of Parker’s stories and enjoyed his amusingly cynical characters. I can’t help pointing out, however, that there is a certain sameness to much of his work. Most (if not all) feature a first-person narrator who smugly believes himself smarter and more capable than other people only to get his come-uppance by story’s end. In this case, it’s the snobbish, too-sure-of-himself Father Bohenna who has been sent by his religious order to investigate why two seemingly bewitched girls each claim that a woman entered their dreams and stuck them with a brooch pin. The identity of this woman, how Bohenna locates her, and the way each are eventually humbled through the intervention of a third party is what the story is about. It’s a well-told and amusing story, even if long-time readers can detect a hint of familiarity in the plot. 

REVIEW: “The Space Beyond Cubicle Twenty-Nine” by Chelsea Sutton

Review of Chelsea Sutton, “The Space Beyond Cubicle Twenty-Nine”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story was a fun mixture of time travel and space exploration. About two years ago from the present day was when humans were first visited by Humans, our own race from the future, come back to the here and now to rescue humanity from a dying earth, so that one day Humanity might still exist. All that humans need to do is follow the Humans — taking flight from earth and heading into space.

Sutton’s recounting of what had happened over the last two years, told through the experiences of Lucy who works at Earth Interface Publishing, was fun and engaging, and full of likeable characters.

REVIEW: “For God is in Sleep Also, and Dreams Advise” by D. L. Podlesni

Review of D. L. Podlesni, “For God is in Sleep Also, and Dreams Advise”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: suicide.

It’s a testament to the quality of Podlesni’s story that I didn’t even realise it was a “little green aliens arriving on earth” story until I was flat out told so. The Immigrants that came to Matewan were presented so thoughtfully, and so intriguingly, that stereotypes were entirely avoided. And the rest of the story continued smashing stereotypes — for the most part; I’m not familiar enough with Deaf culture to know what the import of Podlesni’s choice to not capitalize ‘deaf’ throughout is. That caveat aside, this was a lovely story that foregrounds friendship, and I enjoyed it.

REVIEW: “The Patron” by Derrick Boden

Review of Derrick Boden, “The Patron”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 312 (September 10, 2020). Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

 In this excellent story on the origins of compassion and empathy, The Patron is a woman who cares more deeply than she realizes about the people who come to her seeking vengeance on others. She has spent seven years as a prisoner negotiating, day after day, the terms for such retribution. But the chain that binds her ankle to her chair—as well as to the need to negotiate these vengeful transactions—is largely symbolic. The Patron believes she is imprisoned and controlled by daemons who thrive on physical and psychic pain and who perform the vengeful acts. She’s wrong, though, and her eventual recognition of the genuine nature of her imprisonment gives rise to a selfless act that ultimately frees her (in a sense). In turn, hope is born, where previously there had been only darkness and despair.  

REVIEW: “Yolk” by Morgan MacVaugh

Review of Morgan MacVaugh, “Yolk”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The story had a strong fairy-tale quality to it; it’s the sort that I could see myself reading aloud to a child not for the strong characters or fast-paced plot but for the beautiful language and the pictures it draws, of a little girl who makes friends with a man who walks the line between day and night, and shares some toast with him dipped in the yolk of the sun.