REVIEW: “Mama Tulu” by Jessica Guess

Review of Jessica Guess, “Mama Tulu”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: Drinking, gambling, domestic abuse.

This urban fantasy set in Jamaica centers around the titular character Mama Tulu, and Sasha, the young woman who goes to visit her to make an unspeakable request. I liked almost everything about it — but not quite everything. I have a deep ambivalence about the use of phonetic representations of dialect in written fiction; I am never sure how appropriate or successful they are. Reading them often feels like an uncomfortable caricature; but on the other hand, I think it’s important to recognise the varieties of ways in which people speak, and to recognise the legitimacy of, e.g., AAVE.

REVIEW: “The Dragon’s Dinner” by Lindsey Duncan

Review of Lindsey Duncan, “The Dragon’s Dinner”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There was a lot of cliches in this story — the dragon-fighting knights trying to win the hand of a princess; the princess who didn’t want to be an object of conquest; the maiden aunt who provided the princess with the training needed — but ultimately, this was a fairy tale, and fairy tales are cliches, so it worked.

REVIEW: “The Night Kingdom” by Shikhar Dixit

Review of Shikhar Dixit, “The Night Kingdom”, Weird Horror 1 (2020): 62-68 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Corpses, severe injury, nonconsentual commitment to mental institution.

Now this was my kind of horror! Haunted books, twisted stories, Cathar heresy, and a pervasive uncertainty of what the cause of it all is, all written in an engaging and characterful style. Thumbs up.

REVIEW: “The Devil and the Divine” by Inna Effress

Review of Inna Effress, “The Devil and the Divine”, Weird Horror 1 (2020): 29-34 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I loved the combination of horror and fantasy that comprised this story. The foreign setting was just familiar enough to make you feel like what was happening could’ve happened anywhere, perhaps even here in the real world; and Clava’s desperate, perverted desire to become the beheld instead of the beholder, and the steps that she takes to achieve this end were chilly and creepy. Beneath all of these was the uncertainty I had whether Clava was the villain — or the victim.

To cap things off, David Bowman’s illustrations accompanying this story were really quite divine.

REVIEW: “White Noise in a White Room” by Steve Duffy

Review of Steve Duffy, “White Noise in a White Room”, Weird Horror 1 (2020): 18-27 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story was cleanly and precisely written with elegant language — every word necessary, to the point where I found myself having to go back and reread various parts of it, sometimes more than once, to ensure I wasn’t missing out on some important clue. It had a sort of hard-beaten/detective noir to it, but for all that, I’m not quite sure what was “horrible” about this story.

REVIEW: “Krazy Krax” by Naben Ruthnum

Review of Naben Ruthnum, “Krazy Krax”, Weird Horror 1 (2020): 10-14 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is the inaugural fiction story in Undertow Publication’s new horror serial, Weird Horror, which I received a review copy of via my friendship with David Bowman, one of the featured artists in the issue.

I haven’t read a print fiction journal in ages and loved really enjoyed it — it feels so nice in my hands, look so nice on the page, well-formed great art (not just Bowman both other artists are featured as well, with personalised art for every story), plus opinion columns and reviews in amongst the fiction.

But the fiction is what I’m here for, so let’s talk about Ruthnum’s story. For all that horror is a speculative genre, this story was full of gritty realism. The horror comes from how reasonable the narrator sounds, how sympathetic and empathetic, and how he never quite says what it is that has happened. Reading the story was a weird combination of humor and gaslight, and it was altogether creepy. A solid start to the issue, and to the journal itself!

REVIEW: “The Old Hotel” by Nicole Janeway

Review of Nicole Janeway, “The Old Hotel”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This reads like a series of beautiful vignettes — words carefully painting pictures for the mind’s eye — rather than a story with characters to be invested in, events to be concerned about, outcomes to celebrate.

But it is short, and it is pretty, so I can’t fault it too much.

(Originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, 2016.)

REVIEW: “Mory Takes Flight” by Anna O’Brien

Review of Anna O’Brien, “Mory Takes Flight”, Luna Station Quarterly 27 (2016): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I struggled a bit with the balance between background information and actual story in this one; it sometimes felt like there was more of the former and less of the latter. But I enjoyed the chatty oriole from England who was just passing through Cyrpus when he met up with the titular Mory; he was amusing and jolly to read.

(First published in Unlocked: Short Stories from the Frederick Writers’ Salon, 2015).

REVIEW: “Halfway Through the Dark” by Alexis Ames

Review of Alexis Ames, “Halfway Through the Dark”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a wonderfully cosy steampunk mystery, which I enjoyed a lot. The characters felt rich and familiar, as if this was but one episode in a series of stories. I’m now interested to see if Ames has written about Kate and David before, or if she’ll write about them again in the future!