REVIEW: “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind” by Gregory Feeley

Review of Gregory Feeley, “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unsettling story that was equal parts hopeful and strange. One of those stories you need to read slowly. It’s full of subtleties and the knowledge that humans don’t necessarily know everything.

But Minds are likely to know a lot more, and their relationship isn’t so much symbiotic as coexisting on the planet. Figments transport people to different places and experiences, all in their imagination.

Throw in some speculative fiction and a folk tale narrative sort of Figment experiences, and you get this unsettling, slow paced, Neptune-based tale.

REVIEW: “Standard” by Thomas Webster

Review of Thomas Webster, “Standard”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2022): 153–156 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

A tech repairman helps a young woman maintain and enhance her artificial implants that enable her do her job. She keeps asking for more regardless of the dangers involved.

I always appreciate stories that are able to pack a lot of meaning in small amounts, and Webster’s story certainly fits into that category. The subjective narration has an unruly quality about it that helps get across the psychology of the narrator as he sees his younger self in his client and her inevitable demise. There’s an interesting contrast between a highly technological world and a simple life, and to what extend either path is a choice. Overall, an excellent and thought-provoking short story.

REVIEW: “Philanderer” by Monica Joyce Evans

Review of Monica Joyce Evans, “Philanderer”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2022): 120–121 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

The main character explores one of the methane lakes of Titan using a powerful AI suit. Not everything goes as planned.

A very short story with a nice twist at the end, though everything is a bit too vague for my taste. The tight first person narration (along with the brevity of the story), while evocative, makes the prose somewhat hard to decipher. We’re never given a good explanation for what happens. Still, an enjoyable story.

REVIEW: “Nirvana or Bust” by Michael Swanwick

Review of Michael Swanwick, “Nirvana or Bust”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2022): 49–53 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Huiling is a woman on the run wearing a sentient exoskeleton she calls Nirvana or Bust. One day she meets her old advisor, Catherine, who informs her that her assassin is on the way. Huiling must protect her revolutionary discovery from bother her human and AI pursuers.

In Nirvana or Bust, the author presents a highly automated world where the joining of natural and artificial intelligence is a massive leap forward – even though neither humans nor AI see it that way. This is by no means a new idea, and I’m not sure if the story adds anything new to it. Still, it is presented well and with immersive prose (particularly the dialogue), even if the ending is perhaps a bit too convenient.

REVIEW: “The Four Spider-Societies of Proxima Centauri 33G” by Mercurio D. Rivera

Review of Mercurio D. Rivera, “The Four Spider-Societies of Proxima Centauri 33G”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2022): 42–48 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

On planet 33G of Proxima Centauri, an earth crew is trying to establish a trade relationship with any of the four local spider-like communities: the Rantulaharans, the Manti’ti’ti’tropicans, Kl’kryopolaishans, and the Zilli-tik-nesians. Things don’t go as planned.

This was a funny and well-written short story about the incompetence of the crew trying to accomplish its mission. Rivera takes the old trope about human-alien (mis)communication and turns it on its head by presenting it through the lens of a business transaction. The political commentary is a bit heavy-handed, though it occupies a mostly minor role in the story. The focus (and humor) remains in the clueless protagonist.

REVIEW: “Swallow It Down” by Sarah Dropek

Review of Sarah Dropek, “Swallow It Down,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a vivid, powerful story of a woman caring for her mother as she watches her die. I have not yet had to shepherd a parent through their final days yet, but I have watched friends do it and there is a ring of truth in the way Dropek takes this and turns it into something bleakly horrorful. A tough, but good, read.

REVIEW: “Experiment Ninety-Four” by Sarah Salcedo

Review of Sarah Salcedo, “Experiment Ninety-Four,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Caspian lives “decommissioned space station which orbited a nebula in a remote quadrant of space”, abandoned or forgotten by his parents, he doesn’t know which. During years of trying to stave off boredom and loneliness, Caspian has taken apart almost every instrument on the station, learning how they were made, and how to make his own things, continually experimenting.

Experiment Ninety-Four was the most experiment of all, and neither Caspian nor the reader could ever have imagined the outcome of it. Took me by surprise and resulted in a very satisfying — if slightly horrific and unsettling — story, with the added bonus of the lovely accompanying artwork, courtesy of the author.

(First published in Collective Realms Magazine, January 2021)

REVIEW: “The Winter Garden” by Regina Kanyu Wang

Review of Regina Kanyu Wang, “The Winter Garden”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Alternate universes form the backdrop of this story, with Ms. Wang’s life and choices the primary plot. And what a plot it is. Everything is a choice – the choice to make no choices is also a choice, and one that Ms. Wang ends up taking very often. Not by choice.

It would be repetitive if not for the fact that it was skillfully executed. From coasting through the easy decisions, to choosing the seemingly easy way of checking out an alternate reality where she has an ostensibly better life, she very rarely takes a stand for herself. But not every reality of herself is the same. In another world, she takes decisions more strongly and promptly. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “Alistair Catfish” by Cindy Phan

Review of Cindy Phan, “Alistair Catfish,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

“You grant small wishes and complain” is an absolute stunner of a line, said by Colin Abrams, the narrator, to the titular Alistair Catfish, whom he rescued from a hurricane and rehabilitated in his bathtub, and who now owes Colin wishes. Small wishes only, and only granted with complaint.

This was was an ordinary twist on the traditional “fisherman catches a glamorous fish and is well rewarded” tale until it was slowly overcome by a creeping horror. I was not expecting the story to go where it did, from how it started. Kept me on my toes!

REVIEW: “Sleeping Giants” by Erin Keating

Review of Erin Keating, “Sleeping Giants,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Annie Warren only speaks in tongues, and so she learned from an early age not to speak at all — until the day comes when tragedy hits her family and she cries out for revenge, waking the sleeping giants below.

This was a well-crafted story — well paced and engaging, and keeping my interest the entire time.