REVIEW: “Ceres 7” by Lorraine Alden

Review of Lorraine Alden, “Ceres 7”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 118–123 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

This review may contain spoilers.

Ceres 7 is on its way to the planet Esperance with a mission to preserve the human race after Earth has presumably suffered nuclear Armageddon. Ruth and Jill, the youngest members of the all-female crew, are uncertain about their chances to survive the whole trip. With the cryogenic module half broken, only some of the members are destined to survive.

Alden’s story reminded me of Tom Godwin’s “The cold equation,” presenting yet another variation on the classic unwinnable scenario in science fiction (albeit far more plausible than Godwin’s version). I appreciated the tight economy of the prose, revealing just enough about the story’s background without drowning it in exposition. The final twist is genuinely surprising, but somewhat Deus-ex-machina for the protagonist. All in all, a great story.

REVIEW: “Party On” by James Van Pelt

Review of James Van Pelt, “Party on”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 80–87 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Tribley is jumping between dimensions searching for parties to take his mind off something. Someone is after him, trying to bring him back to reality.

The story does a fantastic job at bringing each location to life. Van Pelt has a gift for description that he puts to great use in this story. The ending is simply heart-breaking.

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: “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.

REVIEW: “Lost and Found; Retreat and Return” by Emma Schmid

Review of Emma Schmid, “Lost and Found; Retreat and Return,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story made me explicitly realise something I’d noticed implicitly over the last year or two: There seems to be an increasing number of fantasy stories which revolve around a single character, alone, and reflective of her (almost always her!) circumstances. I wonder whether the isolation of the pandemic has contributed to the rise in both the writing and the publishing of this sort story, if we’ve sort of collectively forgotten what it is like to live in a bustling world with many people overlapping.

Told well, these stories can be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding — but they do tend to blur together, and feel all of a same piece. The beginning of Schmid’s story was just that: Well crafted, but very similar to some of the others in this same issue of LSQ. However, when the second character finally showed up, then things started getting interesting and by the end I was well sucked in.