REVIEW: “Not Quite Taken” by KL Pereira

Review of KL Pereira, “Not Quite Taken”, Lamplight Volume 6 Issue 2, December 2017.  pp. 6-10. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

 

A grim little story written in second person about someone–you–decomposing. Evidently this is something you’ve done before, as it talks about your rituals, as well as painful memories from when this first started. Lamplight does label itself as a magazine of dark fiction, and though I’ve submitted stories in the past this is actually one of the first issues I’ve ever read. KL Pereira is the featured author for this issue so there is some more work from them, and I’m eager to see what else they’ve got for me.

A very good story, but as I’ve said in the past, second person rarely works for me as well as first or second. Still, I’d definitely recommend a read if you want some short and punchy body horror.

REVIEW: “Store in a Dark Place” by David Stevens

Review of David Stevens, “Store in a Dark Place”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 29-34. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

 

What a strange and very dark story. The story follows a protagonist named Gerald whose deformed head is locked up in a box. He has flashbacks and deals with his paranoia that everywhere he goes death and destruction follow. The story is set in a ruined world which the author has apparently explored before in two previously published stories: “Avoiding Gagarin,” in Aurealis, and “The Big Reveal” in Kaleidotrope. Definitely right up your alley if you’re a fan of grimdark writing, with loads of gritty imagery and murky, confused morality.

 

The writing is full of a lot of rhetorical questions, which can get a little grating after a while, and leaves a lot of questions unanswered (though they may be answered better once the other two stories have been read), but the “Store in a Dark Place” is is intriguing enough. Just be prepared for a bit of a downer.

REVIEW: “The Ashen Heart of St. Fain” by Dale Carothers

Review of Dale Carothers, “The Ashen Heart of St. Fain”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 35-40. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

 

A fantasy story about a young, privileged man who wants to basically be his world’s equivalent of Walt Whitman, and write a book for the common people. He seeks to write an account of the city of St. Fain, where a fallen god has left a massive burnt-out crater. Like many would-be “writers” with lofty goals, he finds himself counting more an more days without a page count and ultimately ends up caught in another person’s pain, his own failings, and his family’s expectations. This is a story of healing, but also of shattered dreams, naivete, misplaced hopes. It starts out easy enough, but don’t expect the whole ride to be full of peaceful easy feelings.

Does Nicholas ever pursue writing again and actually get some work done? I don’t know. Maybe Dale Carothers will revisit this young man’s world or it’s been visited before this story. Either way I do recommend this one. While it is refreshing to see a story every once in a while that has a not-so-happy ending, this one did actually bum me out a little. Which is a good thing, believe it or not.

 

REVIEW: “Conversation, Descending” by Richard Dansky

Review of Richard Dansky, “Conversation, Descending”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 25-28. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Reading Richard Dansky’s profile in the magazine, I fully expected to like this story. He’s a veteran video game writer and has seven novels and a story collection under his belt as well. Do I think this is a bad story? Not necessarily. All I can say for sure is this one was a bit of a dud for me, but I’d still recommend reading it yourself and forming your own opinion.

“Conversation, Descending” is a steampunky fantasy that opens with a fellow falling through the sky after he’s ejected from an airship. As tends to (in my opinion, unfortunately) come with the territory there’s a lot of pseudo-Victorian/Romantic era stilted language that in other subgenres might be pegged as thesaurus abuse. The first page is almost all repetition of the fact that our main character is falling and he’s just in his underwear.

There is a conversation with another character further in, as well as a few moments that would have struck me as particularly humorous or clever if the writing style, particularly that of the main character didn’t remind me so much of Harold Lauder from The Stand, chock full of m’lady-ish phraseology that I could all but see this character in a trench coat and fedora, fingerless gloves grasping the edge of his hat as he talked to other damsels along his way.

There is a nice sort of bait-n-switch toward the end but I hate to admit by that point I’d sort of half checked out. I do still recommend checking this one out for yourself, as hopefully you don’t have my hangups. There is humor and wit in here, so I hope you are able to appreciate that more than I was.

REVIEW: “The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor” by Fraser Sherman

Review of Fraser Sherman, “The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 17-23. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Remember Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or that one movie with Brad Pitt and the cartoon cat. This story is a lot like that, though definitely better than the Brad Pitt movie. The world has ended and everyone seems to have “come back” as movie characters of some sort or another. There’s some cheesiness involved, but it comes with the territory when some of these realms are straight out of B-movie schlock.

There are black and white B-movie horror characters, blacksploitation nods, film noire, but not so much by way of “modern” cinema nods other than a few name drops. Still if you grew up watching schlocky films, especially if you watched some of those by way of Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you’ll get a few chuckles out of this.

The story is fairly clever and tongue in cheek, though for me personally it doesn’t stand out as much as other Space and Time Magazine stories I’ve read before. However, like everything else put out by this publication, it’s still an interesting and well-written story and I’d still recommend giving it a read.

REVIEW: “Done, not Undone” by Patricia Russo

Review of Patricia Russo, “Done, not Undone”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 11-16. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

What if shape-shifting was a genetic trait, one that was highly frowned upon at that? This story follows a shape-shifter and their friend (who desperately wishes they could shape-shift) as they are about to undertake some shady business in the name of grocery money and get pulled into something rather unexpected.

The premise of shape shifting, while old hat, is given a fresh take with this story, and Patricia Russo has given us characters that we care about within a short space and a page-turner of a story. Recommended.

REVIEW: “Long for This World” by Esther Scherpenisse

Review of Esther Scherpenisse, “Long For This World”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 3-10. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

One thing I like about Space and Time magazine is that they always keep things interesting and this story is no exception. Esther Scherpenisse is a Dutch SFF writer, and in this story she tells of a young man who is about to die, but whose family is lucky enough for Death to answer their call.

The main character gets taken by Death to a realm where his life is extended, though things aren’t necessarily what they seem at first glance. Death in this story is fairly kind, though firm, much like Neil Gaiman’s Death in the Sandman series, though here they are at least presented as male. Some parts of the story may be hard to face, such as the main character getting swept up in his family’s inability to say goodbye to him, despite the fact that chemo has made him more than ready to accept his death when it comes. Or his faimily’s forced ignorance of the fact that their son is wasting away in front of them, their absolute need to act like nothing is wrong.

The story keeps things short and sweet and packs a great punch when it comes to the main character’s choices. Fans of Persona may also enjoy the description of Death’s tower. Highly recommended.