REVIEW: “Splendor” by Emmie Christie

Review of Emmie Christie, “Splendor,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 62 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I’d never considered the question of what our galaxy would be like if not only our human society but also the stars were trapped under the confines of late-stage capitalism, until I read this poem. I liked the way it made me question; but I found the resolution in the final stanza unsatisfying, because it’s not a solution that can be translated into humanity. Sometimes, knowing your worth isn’t enough to be able to do anything about it.

REVIEW: “Under the Satin Gunmetal Sky” by Shawn Goodman

Review of Shawn Goodman, “Under the Satin Gunmetal Sky,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 40-45 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Schneider is a detective on the case of a double murder with a twist — two synths who’ve had their arms removed. (Another twist: he’s a synth himself.) Apparently, the best way to solve a complicated case, if you’re a synth detective, is to get high and fight it out at a fight club.

At least, that’s what I got out of Goodman’s story, and all I got. It was one of those weird stories where it feels like it all hangs together while you read it, but at the end you realise none of it made any sense.

REVIEW: “The Flyswatter” by Nick Greenleaf

Review of Nick Greenleaf, “The Flyswatter,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 34-39 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Tomo and Tommy fix electronics, but it’s not enough to make a living out of, so occasionally Tomo brings back other jobs for them. It’s a dangerous mission, involving Tomo hooking herself into a neural interface to try to hack her way in through a back door, but will bring in a lot of money.

There’s a fine line between explaining too much and explaining too little, but unfortunately this story fell on the latter side for me. I was never quite sure what Tomo was targetting — a person or a corporation? And the technicians who showed up at the end, their connection to the whole process also wasn’t clear to me. A lot of potential in this story, just not quite realised.

REVIEW: “Superluminal” by Kevin Helock

Review of Kevin Helock, “Superluminal,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 29-33 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The best part about science fiction is that you can ignore science when needed in favor of fiction; on the other hand, if you want to write science fiction you can’t ignore too much science. With his story of faster-than-light travel and a 3000-strong colony on Mars, Helock has managed to hit a good balance between giving up science, without feeling any needed to explain how, and yet keeping the bones of the narrative credible.*

(*Other than the fact that anyone in so far distant a future would consider Elon Musk one of the “Great Men” of history. But Maxim seems the sort of person who would idolize Musk.)

REVIEW: “The Blue Woman” by Leah Callender-Crowe

Review of Leah Callender-Crowe, “The Blue Woman,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 14-19 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Between the rather prosaic info-dump intro and the present tense, which felt oddly unsuited to the story, I struggled a bit to get into this one. But the central message — that no matter how much we sacrifice ourselves to our employers, they will never reward that sacrifice — is an important one to read.

REVIEW: “Rebirth” by Michelle Kaseler

Review of Michelle Kaseler, “Rebirth,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 5-13 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: References to suicide, murder, and sexual assault; forced labor and enslavement.

The process of rebirth takes criminals and turns them into mining drones, an endless supply of prisoner labor. Rebirth is supposed to erase all memory of previous life; people don’t even know that rebirth has happened to them.

Unsurprisingly, one person does find it, and infiltrates a work crew, and attempts to help people remember.

The detail that struck me the most in this story was how even though all the prisoners had been given labels (“A7”, “B9”, etc.), all these labels eventually gave way to nicknames that became names. You can try to erase the individuality out of a person — but it’s much harder than people think.

REVIEW: “confessional” by James Redfern

Review of James Redfern, “confessional,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 57 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I was going to scroll back up through the issue to find a story to review today, but then I glanced at the first stanza of this poem, and it sucked me in and I’d read the entire thing before I realised it. It’s both hilarious, and hilariously on-point commentary on labor in the era of capitalism.

REVIEW: “The Problem Is” by Thomas Mixon

Review of Thomas Mixon, “The Problem Is,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 55 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This poem nicely encapsulates the existential angst that comes from living in a digital world where everyone is reachable all the time and no one is ever in sync with anyone else, and offers a plea to return to simpler times. On the one hand, I’m sympathetic; on the other hand, I think we’re better off going forward, rather than retrograde.