REVIEW: “Through” by Eric Fomley and Rich Larson

Review of Eric Fomley and Rich Larson, “Through”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Fast paced and full of twists, this was a one-sitting read. I don’t always read short stories in one sitting, despite their size and the possibility of doing so. But this one made me ignore everything else because I just had to find out what exactly was going on.

From the very beginning, there is intrigue and a build up of expectation. The authors very cleverly reveal a little at a time, sometimes raising more questions while simultaneously giving us readers tidbits of information. It felt like a much larger story skillfully condensed into short fiction. Extremely engaging read.

REVIEW: “Rain Falling in the Pines” by Lavie Tidhar

Review of Lavie Tidhar, “Rain Falling in the Pines”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Really well-defined world-building, with delicious hints of a broader world in the background. I’ve love to read a longer story set in this world. Multiple stories, even.

Geshem is a layered, interesting character, a First Human who lives in a world full of Sapis and genetically modified creatures. It’s a cyberpunk dystopia, and it’s been a while since I’ve read a good cyberpunk story, so this was even more appreciated.

Lovely concept and plot. Multiple characters, and even the minor ones were given strong personalities. I always love when an author pays that kind of attention to detail.

REVIEW: “Love Unflinching, at Low- to Zero-G” by M. L. Clark

Review of M. L. Clark, “Love Unflinching, at Low- to Zero-G”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A veterinarian in space wrangles with ethics, morality and duty, with inter-species collaborative space stations thrown in for good measure.

The Doc is getting on in years, but they are still very committed to ensuring a healthy, balanced existence on the station, amongst all species and their companions. But humans are only human, after all, and Doc takes it upon themselves to try and diffuse the situation before it becomes a potentially disastrous actual situation.

The descriptions were lovely, the characters were well-defined, and the ending was particularly poignant. Long yet engaging.

REVIEW: “Legend of the Giant” by Fei Dao

Review of Fei Dao, “Legend of the Giant”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A strange story that veers into philosophical discourse while referencing the meaning of work, beauty and indeed, life.

A tad more abstract than I’ve come to expect from Clarkesworld, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The story follows a mechanical giant who has been tasked with destroying old buildings and creating vitreous bricks out of the debris. These bricks, he has been told, will be useful for future projects. Humans are missing, however, and he doesn’t wonder what shape those projects may take without humanity around.

Except he encounters a killer mecha, a philosopher, and sentient soap bubbles along the way. This shapes and builds his perspective throughout the story.

A good story worth spending time with.

REVIEW: “The Answer Was Snails” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “The Answer Was Snails”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The protagonist, Robin, is trapped in a terrarium by an alien. A mish-mash of creatures who have no business being placed together, but they are. And that’s why every day is a struggle for Robin.

What keeps them going is knowing their partner Annie is nearby, unfortunately trapped in an adjacent terrarium.

It’s difficult for both of them, but they decide to try to be together, if they can’t be free. There’s a lot at stake and they stay strong and hopeful throughout.

REVIEW: “Paper of Elephants” by Brenda Cooper

Review of Brenda Cooper, “Paper of Elephants”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A heartfelt, touching story of two siblings running an elephant sanctuary in Zimbabwe.

David is the finance guy, and Eleanor guides the tours. Siaal, a young elephant, paints, and David decides to sell his artwork as NFTs in order to raise funds to save the sanctuary.

The piece develops and flows beautifully, and we can feel Eleanor’s helplessness and frustration – why should it be so hard to save these beautiful creatures?

Art is the focus, and in a different yet startlingly beautiful and raw way, art saves the day. The ending made my heart happy.

REVIEW: “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril” by Timons Esaias

Review of Timons Esaias, “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The story is presented as a combination of personal narratives, transcripts, reports, and police and military conversation and decisions.

The Purple Tide is a cognizant entity who chooses what to and what not to destroy. As the story proceeds, we learn more about the Tide’s personality. Comic relief comes in the form of how humans take themselves way too seriously and try to enforce human rules on what is a blob of seemingly sentient slime.

An example – “The slime destroyed the tollbooths on the north bridge ramps and did not pay any tolls.”

The Purple Tide is an entity made of trash: main component – jelly. Human-made trash was responsible for the creation of the Tide, and slowly, humans are being destroyed by it. The gravity of the situation increases quickly as you go through the story.

An improbable piece of fiction, but nonetheless one that makes you really think about human excesses and callousness.

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: “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: “Dog and Pony Show” by Robert Jeschonek

Review of Robert Jeschonek, “Dog and Pony Show”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Wow, what an insanely creative and unsettling story! A dog isn’t a dog, soft isn’t soft, what breakfast actually could be is unimaginable, and playtime is terrifying torture.

The details and descriptions were written so well, as was our narrator Beneathy. Fantastically paced with well-fleshed out characters, this is a memorable story. I read this twice – the second time simply for the unsettling beauty of the prose.

This month, Clarkesworld stories have all had an element of hope, and this one gave us a bit of that as well. However, the ending was unexpected and so much worse than I would have imagined. Fantastic story.