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.

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.

REVIEW: “The Area Under the Curve” by Matt McHugh

Review of Matt McHugh, “The Area Under the Curve”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 80–87 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Emi and Zeika discover that their son Benny is an average boy – plain average – and therefore not qualified to join them in the upcoming mission to the generation ship. They must decide if they will join follow him on earth, or remain in space and continue with their mission.

The drama in the story is absolutely superb. The richness of detail in the fights and arguments between the two parents give the story a certain familiarity that every reader is bound to recognize. Moreover, the source of the tension in the story is wonderfully melancholic. I took some issue with the ending, as it felt like a bit like a cop-out from the original dilemma. Nevertheless, this is still one of the best stories in this issue.

REVIEW: “Of Wood and Flame” by Anna Madden

Review of Anna Madden, “Of Wood and Flame,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There’s plenty of stories out there about foundling children raised by animals, but much fewer about foundling children raised by trees. I would have liked to know a bit more about how Holly ended up abandoned in the forest, and how Fossil knew about her past; but these are minor quibbles about an otherwise enjoyable story. Plus: a bonus dragon!

REVIEW: “Cornflower” by Victoria Navarra

Review of Victoria Navarra, “Cornflower”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 74–79 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Living in a space station after Earth has been rendered uninhabitable, Reza gets his first job tending the semi-automated garden of the colony. He thinks it’s the worst and most boring job he could have, until a young girl his age, Amelia, changes his mind.

Though short and simple, the author does a great job at going through the characters’ motivations and psychology to move the plot forward. The world building is also excellent, providing the necessary fuel for the story’s themes. All in all, thoroughly enjoyable.

REVIEW: “A Real Snow Day” by M. Bernardo

Review of M. Bernardo, “A Real Snow Day”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 94–97 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

In the middle of a snowstorm in 1948, Lyria and Kenton decide to spend all day inside, enjoying a the warmth and comfort of their living room. However, nothing is really as it seems in their household.

This story is all about the final reveal, which I must admit that I didn’t see coming. The brevity certainly helps, because the first half is not that interesting — and the author doesn’t do the greatest job at foreshadowing. But in the end, it is a worthy read.