REVIEW: “The Blackbirds in My Sister’s Chest” by Katherine Westermann

Review of Katherine Westermann, “The Blackbirds in My Sister’s Chest,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 82-93 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a very sad, middle-child story, of Alma Ruiz, the daughter who was never the favorite, who was not the son her parents hoped for, the one who is afraid when her sisters never are. There are a lot of complicated emotions re: family and familial relationships, and a sharp undertone of body horror in the animals that inhabit Alma and her family’s chests instead of hearts. Weirdly creepy, and really gripping.

REVIEW: “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “The Cold Calculations”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I don’t know where to begin with this story. So beautiful, so heartbreaking, so powerful. I don’t think any review can do justice. Some parts made me emotional, and near the conclusion I had goosebumps the entire time.

It’s about hopefulness in the midst of adversity and difficulty. But hope is not enough – there must be action, and action can start with just one person. Nobody is too small to make a difference. The titular cold calculations that are ever-present in the world, from years past to the present day, where technical difficulties and paperwork sometimes overlook the fact that each number is an actual, living person. And a person is not an expendable resource.

REVIEW: “The Death Haiku of the Azure Five” by L Chan

Review of L. Chan, “The Death Haiku of the Azure Five”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A very technical sort of story, maybe we could call it hard science fiction? It’s a war fought in outer space, by AI. And these particular second-gen AIs don’t have much in the way of free will. What they do have, is a bit of poetry at the end of their lives. Poetry they can write near death, participating in a war they don’t really want to fight.

But they have a little family, and they look out for each other. Suffused with emotion amidst all the technicality, it makes for an interesting read!

REVIEW: “Between Zero and One There is Infinity” by Shari Paul

Review of Shari Paul, “Between Zero and One There is Infinity”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A high stakes story that pulls you into it right from the beginning. There’s habitation on Mars, humans coexisting with (and also fighting with) alien invaders, people being uploaded to computers, and space pirates!

So many elements in this novelette, and all of them paced super well in a tight plot. The characters are fleshed out so well, even the minor ones. A very engaging read, and you’ll definitely love it if any of these settings/character types appeal to you. To be frank, you’d enjoy it even otherwise!

REVIEW: “Salt and Flowers” by Jessica Lévai

Review of Jessica Lévai, “Salt and Flowers,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 49-57 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Child abuse, violence, kidnapping.

I was so excited to start this story, because I thought I was going to get good disabled rep (the MC wears braces on her legs); but all hopes were dashed when the story turned out to be one of those “but magic can cure you of the need to wear leg braces!” So this story is a “no” from me.

REVIEW: “Opening Doors” by Juliet Kemp

Review of Juliet Kemp, “Opening Doors,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 41-48 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Cancer, death.

Dysfunctional relationships are still dysfunctional, even if they are set on Mars! Despite the setting, the story Kemp gives us is in some respects quite mundane, ordinary. The juxtaposition of the ordinary, every-day against the Martian backdrop made for an intriguing contrast. Don’t get me wrong, “ordinary” and “mundane” are good descriptions here.

REVIEW: “Normalization” by Xauri’EL Zwaan

Review of Xauri’EL Zwaan, “Normalization,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 33-39 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story opens immediately upon a violent death, so if that’s not for you, avoid this one.

Richter, the narrator, is part of a collective, where everyone is a “we”, no one is an “I”, until something catastrophic happens and the narrator is separated from the others and becomes an “I” again. After the violent opening, the next few paragraphs are a rather labored info-dump. All in all, the pitch of this story wasn’t right for me, but I did appreciate the meta-commentary on how all too often people have a very narrow view about what (or who!) gets to count as “humanity”.

REVIEW: “The Language Birds Speak” by Rebecca Campbell

Review of Rebecca Campbell, “The Language Birds Speak”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A hauntingly lovely novelette. We, readers and writers, love words. Words can do so much, but there is another layer of deeper feeling where words do not entirely suffice. This story beautifully explores that.

There’s also a nice slow build up of dread from almost the start, though we may not know what we’re dreading. But it escalates quite nicely to a satisfying conclusion. There’s also a lovely hopeful ending.

We can do a lot with words, but there’s so much more to emotion, feeling and desire than words can do justice to.

REVIEW: “Shadows of the Hungry, the Broken, the Transformed” by Izzy Wasserstein

Review of Izzy Wasserstein, “Shadows of the Hungry, the Broken, the Transformed,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 16-32 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story is written with a real ring of authenticity and understanding of the experiences of graduate student life in neoliberal higher education. Which is quite amazing, since the setting is entirely fantastical, and the research Justine is doing is nothing like the research that goes on in ordinary, real-world universities. This juxtaposition of a beautifully built fantasy world and all the grimy truths of reality made this story a really engaging read. Highly recommend, especially for weavers.