REVIEW: “Emily and the What-If Imp” by Gwynne Garfinkle

Review of Gwynne Garfinkle, “Emily and the What-If Imp,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 16-17 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I think lots of people, especially people who take solace in reading and writing speculative fiction, have What-If imps of their own, hanging around and making unwarranted trouble, or if not a What-If imp, one of its cousins. But I think there is some solace in reading this story, whatever kind of imp you’ve got.

REVIEW: “Heirlooms” by Zebib K. A.

Review of Zebib K. A., “Heirlooms,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 11-15 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The narrator and her roommate have recently moved to a new apartment, in a historically Black neighborhood that is succumbing to gentrification. Other people in the building have said they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood, though we the readers are not told why. Why desperately creepy beings start tapping on the narrator’s window in the middle of the night, we begin to get a sense of why — but is she the only one that sees them?

I certainly didn’t expect a horror story when I started this, but that’s definitely what I got!

REVIEW: “The Warrior Tree” by Chana Kohl

Review of Chana Kohl, “The Warrior Tree,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Born into a remote Amazigh village, Faiza is trapped by the circumstances of her life — born with no fingers, only thumbs; no money to afford an education beyond 8th grade; betrothed young to a much older man. But Faiza is lucky; her elder brother Adil is a carpet-trader in Marrakech, and he’s willing to help when she begs him for a way out.

This was quite an interesting story — really enjoyable in its own right, but given the context in which it was published, I kept reading it thinking “when will the speculative element come in?” The answer to that is: not until the very final few paragraphs. As a result, the ending felt a bit stitched on; nice, but not needed.

REVIEW: “The Oak Tree” by Liz Baxmeyer

Review of Liz Baxmeyer, “The Oak Tree,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Dara is out haunting the oak tree when she surprises a stranger, Muriel, who is desperately seeking something. The folk songs that Dara sings, scattered throughout the story, emphasised the folk-tale nature of the story; but there was rather too much explaining rather than story-telling for it to quite work for me.

REVIEW: “Breath of the Dragon King” by Allison King

Review of Allison King, “Breath of the Dragon King,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 9-10 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Drea King’s life began in tragedy, when she was born in the wrong year in a culture that values dragons far beyond rabbits. But the bigger tragedy is the life of an immigrant child, “scared to be separated from their old country and to be freaks in their new one” (p. 10). Drea turns her own personal tragedy into a way of helping all the other Dragons of ’88 in this lovely, hopefully little story.

REVIEW: “End of the World, Beginning of Everything” by Kiersten Gonzalez

Review of Kiersten Gonzalez, “End of the World, Beginning of Everything,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Sudden death.

After the narrator’s husband leaves her, she takes advantage of the opportunity to move to California and try to become an actress. Instead, she ends up in Colorado, landing a job as a ghost tour guide. There are many ways you might think the story would go, from this premise — but I can guarantee you that none of them are what happens! This was a novel story told in a fresh, distinctive voice. Good stuff!

REVIEW: “The Heavenly Dreams of Mechanical Trees” by Wendy Nikel

Review of Wendy Nikel, “The Heavenly Dreams of Mechanical Trees,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Bita is a botanist living in a world where xylem and phloem have been replaced with metal and gears. There are no botanical trees any more, just metal contraptions that serve the same air-purifying purpose. Only these trees aren’t alive enough to reproduce, they have to be replaced when their parts wear out. And they are all relentlessly the same.

Ailanthus lives in a world of repetition and silence, shuttered away from the world fated to perform the same actions over and over with no way to communicate with anyone. Until Bita comes along, and is the first person who can hear what Ailanthus has been dying to say.

This story was a first for me — the first time I’ve reviewed a story for a second time, at SFFReviews! I recognized the title as soon as I saw it, but remembered little of the story itself. It was curious to go back and reread

REVIEW: “Live Oak” by Carly Racklin

Review of Carly Racklin, “Live Oak,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Rory and Finn have just moved to a new house, and it’s not the happily ever after they hoped for. The big tree looming over Rory’s bedroom is clearly haunted — but whoever heard of a haunted tree? Maybe truth of the matter is even deeper and darker than they can imagine.

A lovely creepy little forest horror story.