REVIEW: "These Wondrous Sweets" by Tony Pi

Review of Tony Pi, “These Wondrous Sweets”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 294, Jan. 2, 2020 — Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

This is the fifth story in what appears to be a continuing series. (Two of the earlier stories also appeared in BCS and were finalists for Aurora and Parsec awards.) Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous work; I hadn’t either, but references within the current story make it easy to understand what has gone before.  

Ao, who creates and sells blown caramel figurines, lives in Chengdu, China and has two of the more novel “superpowers” I’ve encountered in SF/F: the ability to “pour his soul” into his caramel creations and conjure animals from water. In previous stories, Ao apparently used these powers to help save the life of the Pale Tigress, the mystical, tiger-like protectoress of the city. However, the Tigress was seriously wounded (as was Ao) in a confrontation with the Ten Crows Sect, which has somehow allied itself with a demon in hopes of seizing power in the city.  

The current story primarily involves Ao’s attempt to create a diversion so that a doctor can get to the Tigress and treat her injury without giving away the Tigress’ hiding place. To do this, Ao fashions a Tigress-shaped caramel figurine, expands its size with water, then sends his consciousness into it. This provides Ao a measure of control over his creation. However, as another character wryly observes, “plans always go wrong,” and most of the story involves Ao’s increasingly desperate attempts to improvise as the Ten Crows Sect closes in. 

Thin on plot but strong on ambience and action, this is a story worth reading. 

REVIEW: "Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or: Letters From the First Month of the new directorate)" by Marissa Lingen

Review of Marissa Lingen, “Every Tiny Tooth And Claw (Or: Letters From The First Month Of The New Directorate)”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 295, January 16, 2020, Read Online, Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

This is an excellent story, but not one to be read casually. On a superficial level, it is a series of letters between two lovers, Aranth and Pippa, separated for reasons that become more apparent as the story progresses. Read more closely, however, the letters are written in a sort of code that reveals far more about the lives of these lovers, and the society they inhabit, than is apparent on first reading. Saying more about this story would give too much away, so I’ll close with this. You may need to read this story twice, but you’ll thank yourself for doing so.

REVIEW: “Gald” by anonymous

Review of Anonymous, “Gald”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

“Gald” is the story of a group of misfits who have banded together to make their own found family. Minnie, Shasta, and Raynald are “all illegal, no profiles, no scan codes, no fish tickets, nothing”, always traveling at night and avoiding the sokes. But one night they meet Venlis, on the run from one of the sokes herself, and with Venlis comes trouble.

Parts of the story I liked — it had a weird, lyric quality to some of it, and there were hints and bits of interesting background world-building — but the structure of the story didn’t quite work for me. It ended up abruptly, cutting off without any resolution or any explanation of what was going on. It left me feeling unsatisfied.

REVIEW: “All Manner of Wounds” by Emily Strempler

Review of Emily Strempler, “All Manner of Wounds”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: Needles.

Noemi is a med-school student, balancing her studies with caring for her mother and her daughter, managing her diabetes, and maintaining a job. It’s funny what things you’re willing to suspend your disbelief in for the sake of fiction, and what things draw you up short and make you laugh at how unrealistic they are: Noemi shows up late to class, and her professor pauses his lecture to tell her to see him after class to get notes for what she missed so that she has them to write her next paper. Maybe I’m cynical, but I’ve been in academia too long for this to seem anything more than a fantasy…

That aside, I found the story compelling and intriguing, to the point where I was about 2/3 of the way through before I realised that there was hardly anything in the story that counted as speculative (other than self-driving cars). I spent the final third waiting to see if there was going to be, without any satisfaction. The story ended abruptly, and I was left feeling like I’d missed something rather important, but being entirely unclear what.

REVIEW: “Tell Me Something Good” by Nicole Lungerhausen

Review of Nicole Lungerhausen, “Tell Me Something Good”, Luna Station Quarterly 40 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Brief mention of conversion therapy.

The prospect of impending parenthood isn’t always glorious and romantic and hopeful and fun. Sometimes it’s full of anxiety and fear and uncertainty. No matter how many stories other parents tell you, no matter how much time you spend imagining what the future will be like, there is nothing that can prepare you for what it will really be like. This story grapples with all of these issues in a realistic and sympathetic way.