REVIEW: “Leaving” by Noeleen Kavanagh

Review of Noeleen Kavanagh, “Leaving,” Luna Station Quarterly 20 (2014): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Harj is a conscript working in the mines, pressed into double shifts and extra duties and without any means of rebelling — until one day deep in the caverns he and the rest of his team find something that could be their key to escape off the planet.

This was a rather run-of-the-mill SF story — neither the setting nor the characters were particularly distinctive — slightly elevated out of the ordinary by the framing structure it used. I just wish this framing had been given more emphasis; the story would probably have been more to my taste if it had.

REVIEW: “Interlingua” by Yoon Ha Lee

Review of Yoon Ha Lee, “Interlingua,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The primary characters in this story are the Hwacha and the Sarissa, both sentient spaceships. They’ve been assigned to the same Contact mission, and amongst the many duties involved in keeping their crews safe and hale is keeping them occupied, because bored crews get into mischief. Reading the story it becomes apparent that bored ships also get into mischief, and this is what happens when the Hwacha start designing games for its crew to play. Of course, the Hwacha convinces itself that it’s doing this for the good of its crew, rather than itself; in this case, to prepare its crew for this particular Contact situation by giving them a simulation of what it may be like to understand the novel language of the people they are about to meet.

There is a moment about 12 pages when I had a sudden premonition of what was to come, and I spent the rest of the story in delicious anticipation of the end (which was even better than I could’ve imagined). I’ve come to expect good solid SF cross-cut with novel observations about languages (whether verbal or mathematical) from Lee’s stories, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

REVIEW: “Xiaolongbao: Soup Dumplings” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

Review of D.A. Xiaolin Spires, “Xiaolongbao: Soup Dumplings”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A bittersweet story of love, loss, longing and hope. Lyrical prose that sets the tone for the feel of the story as a whole, not just in terms of language.

There’s some magic and some science fiction, combining to make this heart-warming tale. The story revolves around two women who make xiaolongbao, for tradition, memory and umami.

The timeline of this story is set in a modern world, but the lovely prose gives us a timeless sort of feel. Very enjoyable story.

REVIEW: “Troo Raccoon” by M. Yzmore

Review of M. Yzmore, “Troo Raccooon,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love it when an author takes a common what if — what if the multiverse was real, and we could see into other worlds like our own, in this case — and gives it a hum-drum answer: Maybe we wouldn’t actually find anything better than what we’ve got in the actual world.

Zia and Sujay are gateway babysitters; they sit up and night and watch over the alternative earths. Most of the alternatives are empty of anything interesting until one day (of course) they discover an Earth where the meteor that sparked the dinosaur extinction never hit.

This story reminded me of the ST:Voyager episode where they met the descendants of Earth dinosaurs who evolved spacetravel capabilities: Good solid SF fun.

REVIEW: “Like Clockwork” by Tim Major

Review of Tim Major, “Like Clockwork,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story feeds its rich worldbuilding and history to you in dribs and drabs, but not in a way that I found frustrating or irritating. Instead, even though I felt like I had no idea what was going on for most of it, I also felt like each piece of information I was given I was being given for a reason, and this helped me to trust that it would all come clear in the end — and it did, mostly. A quiet, meditative story, but quite enjoyable.

REVIEW: “It is a Pleasure to Receive You” by Ziggy Schutz

Review of Ziggy Schutz, “It is a Pleasure to Receive You”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A vivid story full of hauntingly beautiful prose, language and thought processes.

Of hope and loneliness, how they overlap, and what a difference perspective makes. Of finding someone who understands you, and how genuine affection can change so, so much.

An tale set in the vast expanses of space, but more about exploring yourself. Shining a light on the parts of you that you keep hidden away. Having the courage to break the rules sometimes. Making a difference.

A story about the infinite universe, and acknowledging that sometimes it did feel like all of it revolved around a few people or a few moments. And that can be good. Simply lovely.

REVIEW: “The Great Circus Robbery” by David R. Grigg

Review of David R. Grigg, “The Great Circus Robbery,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Lizzie lives in a scrap yard with her father, eking out a living dealing in bits of metal and junk. When a circus full of mechanical animals comes to town, her father can’t help but hatch a plan to steal one of them. (And considering how skillfully Grigg depicts the clockwork elephant, I can’t blame Lizzie’s dad: I’d want one too.)

It’s not a fun, light-hearted story, though: The central tension comes from the rough way Lizzie’s father treats her, bordering on abusive. My heart ached for her and her loveless, joyless life as I read the story, and was thoroughly delighted by the happiest of endings that came up entirely unexpectedly.

REVIEW: “Last Call on Lindisfarne” by J. B. Toner

Review of J.B. Toner, “Last Call on Lindisfarne,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

As someone who lives not that far from Lindisfarne but has as yet never managed to make it there to visit, I was excited to read a story set there! Except it turns out that this Lindisfarne is on a small asteroid in the Sagittarius cloud. Friar Clump is a monk at the Abbey of St. Francis there, spending his days extracting raw booze from the celestial clouds and extracting it into the finest whiskeys and ales. Everything runs peacefully and smoothly until two space pirates come along, and amusing hijinks ensue. A fun little yarn.