REVIEW: “In the Grip of Yesterday” by P.A. Cornell

Review of P. A. Cornell, “In the Grip of Yesterday” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 90-92 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Knife and other physical violence, drugs, stalking.

This is SF tinged with horror: Science has advanced enough to synthesize many emotions, and the drug of choice for the narrator is Nostalgia, and it doesn’t take more than one or two kicks of it for it to become addictive.

It’s quite a remarkable story: There’s basically nothing in it that is redeeming, nothing in the narrator to make him sympathetic, not even the ending!

REVIEW: “Adjectives of Annihilation” by B. Morris Allen

Review of B. Morris Allen, “Adjectives of Annihilation” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 81-89 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

A ship of Romanian immigrants escape earth’s destruction due to climate change, and end up on the semi-habitable planet of Doilea, and a poet and a particle physicist end up farmers in their new lives. But they brought an infant child with them, as many others brought their children, and now the kids are all grown up. I loved watching the way the narrator interacted with her parents, and the contrast with how she interacted with her peers. I’m a big fan of multi-generational stories, because they don’t get told often enough. The tensions between families that get along and those that don’t, between those who want to forge a new live on Doilea and those who think there may still be something to go back to, someday, all of these were woven together into this interesting and satisfying story.

REVIEW: “Sing the End” by Claire McNerney

Review of Claire McNerney, “Sing the End” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 75-79 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The story opens: “The mod­ern pop song struc­ture goes as fol­lows: in­tro, verse, cho­rus, verse, cho­rus, bridge, cho­rus, out,” and that’s the structure that this story then follows. It’s not quite “post-apocalyptic”, since the apocalypse is happening all around the characters. It’s hard not to read about the Death and think of the real world’s experiences with Covid-19, but this isn’t a pandemic story, as there’s plenty of other apocalypses the characters live through too, one after another until the narrator herself meets her end. A bit of a depressing read!

REVIEW: “Stasis” by Lucy Zhang

Review of Lucy Zhang, “Stasis” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 68-73 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

According to Aristotle, time is the measure of change: Without change, there simply is no passage of time. This is what the narrator, her brother Junlan, and the rest of their class find out when they end up in a stasis plane. No time passes because nothing ever permanently changes, or could change, and there’s no way out.

As a premise for a story this could have been incredibly dull, but instead the narrator’s wry commentary and perceptive self-reflection made it incredibly enjoyable.

REVIEW: “Bleed a Little While” by Michael James

Review of Michael James, “Bleed a Little While” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 62-67 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

How many times do we remember things that we could not possibly remember? How many of our memories are constructed or reconstructed, built up out of what other people tell us, the photos we have, our shared social media histories? I’m sure everyone knows of memories they have that could not possibly be real memories, but James takes this truth and extends it to the extreme, impossible, traumatic end: What if all our memories are constructed, and all shared with everyone else? How do we know what is ours, and who we are?

What a great, compelling, terrifying, heartbreaking story.

REVIEW: “Home Bound” by Melanie Bell

Review of Melanie Bell, “Home Bound” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 54-61 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death.

As someone who gave up a life in the US for a life in Europe — and, ultimately, England — I found a lot to sympathise with Beth, the heroine, in this story, who inherits her great-grandmother’s house and makes the leap across the ocean. I additionally sympathised with the basic premise of the story, that one’s soul can and up becoming bound up with the house that they live in, although in Beth’s case, this is literal: Her great-grandmother cannot die until she passes the house on to someone who shares her blood.

It did feel, a bit, though, like it was a story written by someone who has read about England, but hasn’t lived here. The NHS is slowly being dismantled and destroyed (although: <sarcams>Maybe a thriving NHS is the fantasy element of the story</sarcasm>), she’s more likely to be drinking squash than juice, McDonald’s is unlikely to be the main source of cheap coffees…) On the flip side, it’s been long enough since the start of Covid-19 that it feels wrong when stories don’t acknowledge it, and right when they do, as this one does.

REVIEW: “A Monster in Miami” by Daniel Delgado

Review of Daniel Delgado, “A Monster in Miami” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 25-52 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death and body mutilation; drug trafficking; contract murder.

The story begins in hot, sticky, sultry Florida: Ana María Quispe Ruiz, la Bruja de Mi­ami (“ba­si­cally three-quar­ters tra­di­tional healer and a quar­ter hedge ma­gician,” p. 30, a great line), has been called to the scene of a murder — it’s magic, not forensic science, that is needed to discover what has happened, and who did it, who the titular monster is.

It’s quite a long story, very introspective and self-reflective, and with some very pointed commentary on how magic is conceived of by those who practice it and those who merely study its phenomenon. Those who like hard-hitting urban fantasy should find something to enjoy in this.

REVIEW: “The End of Sleep” by Jamie M. Boyd

Review of Jamie M. Boyd, “The End of Sleep,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Infertility, IVF.

Dr. Ocan Kato deals with sleep issues in PTSD sufferers, which makes him exactly the person Major Claire Weissman wants to see, when experiments involving unilateral sleep in humans (sleeping with only one half of the brain) throw up some surprising results.

But while that’s the main thread of the story, it’s not the only one; it’s also the story of Ocan’s struggle to come to terms with his wife’s infertility. You don’t often get infertility/IVF stories from the point of view of the father, and Dr. Ocan Kato’s grief is raw, palpable, and real.

Overall, a complex and interesting story.

REVIEW: “Tatterdemalion, or Of Apple Bough and Straw” by Elou Carroll

Review of Elou Carroll, “Tatterdemalion, or Of Apple Bough and Straw,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death of a partner.

A very classic sort of fairy tale: A bereaved woman makes a bargain, only to find the price more than she can bear to pay. She gets her happily ever after in the end, but not without a heavy dose of heartache in between.

REVIEW: “Osteomancy” by Jenna Grieve

Review of Jenna Grieve, “Osteomancy,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

My god, this was a good story. The language in this story is exceedingly beautiful, putting images into my head in a way that most stories don’t (those who don’t have any degree of aphantasia may not appreciate this quite as much). I can vividly picture Stranger, arriving at the door of Locksmith begging the creation of a key that only Locksmith can make, everything sharp but cloaked in shades of grey. What a sublime experience, reading this!