I really loved this story, one of the best in the issue. It was set in a richly, wildly full world (the opening scenes and characters felt like they could easily support a complete novel), and it was full of beautiful language and parts that made me laugh. This is exactly the sort of fantasy I want to read, and I look forward to reading more by Lindsey Duncan!
Content warning: Death (including death of children and parents; oblique mention of war).
Apocalypse, ghosts, a destructive plague, a lone walker, a talking dog, Norse gods…there’s a lot crammed into this story. I’m always a little wary of stories that open with a single person striking out on their own after an apocalypse, because it’s hard for a single character to carry an entire story, even a short one. But despite Katla being “more or less the last woman on Earth”, there’s a rich cast of characters, and enough interaction for Katla to become sympathetic.
I think I would’ve gotten more out of the story, though, if I knew my Norse myths better.
Oh, I loved this story. It combined intriguing and realistic science with a depth of character and a sweet thread of love and romance, and hope — so much hope. Beautifully constructed, a real joy to read. If you are looking for a “cosy SF” story, this is one for you.
This is the story of an invasive plant species that kills almost everything it comes in contact with, experienced through the titular characters — a mouse, a crow, and cockroachs.
While I liked the rotating points of views, overall I’m not sure how successful this story was. One the one hand, the experiences of the mouse, the crow, and the cockroach felt too human, too complex, to be believably animal. On the other hand, their experiences and impressions of the “plants” were not enough for me to really understand what they were (were they really plants, or some type of machine?). In the end, the arrival of the valkyries felt strangely out of place.
Review of Ike Iblis, “Uncompromised”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 341-348 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
The dystopian possibilities that AI opens up are easy to exploit in SF stories, whether it be medical diagnoses by machine, or letting an algorithm find you your next date, or something else. Iblis’s story takes these already-existing things and pushes them to their extremes, to give a dark, depressing story. Short, but successful (though better proofreading to put in a bunch of missing commas would have been helpful).
Review of Michelle Enelen, “Meat Me in the Livingroom”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 325-340 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Before reading this story, whenever I saw this title I kept interpreting “meat” as a verb, a la its homophone “meet”, but no — Meat Me is a person, who is confined to the livingroom. She is visited regularly by Selene, who comes to tell her about the world outside (note: I was somewhat confused by Selene. First, Selene’s pronoun is “they/them”, except in the plural not the singular. And yet, when they refer to themselves, they use the singular “I”. Later on, “she” is apparently used in reference to Selene), as well as the egotistical, jerkish Poppy, who forms the final third of the trio. We never learn why Meat Me cannot leave the Livingroom, only that she is lonely there, despite visits from Selene and Poppy…until the Shipman arrives. Shipman brings with him many things Meat Me desires: he is new and exciting, he is interested in her and her life, he brings company to lonely days. But he also brings with him new, unpleasant ideas, and a purple-black smoke that follows his footsteps and leaves death in his wake.
The allegorical nature of Shipman is quite overt in the story, almost heavy-handed at times. Still, it wasn’t so overt as to make the ending foreseen, and I continued to read with interested to see who would win out in the end. I did feel that the Epilogue had no place in the story, though; it raised more questions than it answered.
Review of L. H. Westerlund, “Four Horsemen of London”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 309-323 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Content warning: References to bulimia.
Premise: When the apocalypse is cancelled, the four horsemen are left at loose ends, so they relocate to London.
Execution: Pretty much no attempt to execute this premise is going to surpass Gaiman and Pratchett’s, and every attempt to do so will be unflatteringly measured against theirs. Alas, this one is not the exception.