REVIEW: “The Filigreed Cage” by Krystal Claxton

Review of Krystal Claxton, “The Filigreed Cage,” Luna Station Quarterly 19 (2014): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Underage marriage, forced marriage

The overwhelming misogyny and patriarchal structures in this story, imposed upon humans by the Overseers that are (of course!) only doing their best to keep the humans safe and unharmed, made for quite an unpleasant read. While I’m glad that some of the characters managed to escape in the end, I wasn’t so keen on the fact that Valerie only did so in pursuit of her man; there was nothing reflective in the story which indicated a realisation of how wrong the situation set up by the Overseers was.

(First published in Fireside Magazine 2013).

REVIEW: “The Social Phobic’s Guide to Interior Design” by Sarah Grey

Review of Sarah Grey, “The Social Phobic’s Guide to Interior Design,” Flash Fiction Online 103 (April 2022): 26-28 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Grey captures exceedingly well the experience of being out in public, terrified of anyone noticing you or asking you a question. And it took me all the way until the end of the story to realise there is not a speculative drop in it.

(First published in Flash Fiction Online 2013).

REVIEW: “Peaches in the Breeze” by Siobhan Gallagher

Review of Siobhan Gallagher, “Peaches in the Breeze,” Luna Station Quarterly 23 (2015): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This extremely short story felt a bit more like a sketch for the real thing — too bare bones to quite be fully fledged. If you like tales of women conquering over misogyny, then you might like this one; but I would have liked to see more than just this.

(Originally published in Abyss & Apex, 2013.)

REVIEW: “Southside Gods” by Sarah Grey

Review of Sarah Grey, “Southside Gods,” Flash Fiction Online 87 (2021): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

These are the southside gods — gods of the slums, of the working class. This is Holloway, god of water, who fixes washing machines and “is every plumber in the directory”; but he doesn’t do air conditioners. He just might be able to recommend a colleague, though…

Fresh, humorous, and with just the right of pathos, this was a little gem of a story.

(First published in Intergalactic Medicine Show September 2013).

REVIEW: “Concession” by Jyouji Hayashi

Review of Jyouji Hayashi, Daniel Huddleston (trans), “Concession” in Hirotaka Osawa, ed., Intelligence, Artificial and Human: Eight Science Fiction Tales by Japanese Authors, (AI x SF Project, [2019]): 31-36 — More information here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Mr. Naganuma is playing shogi against the brilliant AI, Victorious; he won the first game, and now the second game begins.

This is a straightforward story about man vs. machine, with an interesting emphasis on the question of what it means to really play a game.

(First published in Artificial Intelligence 28, no. 6 (2013).)

REVIEW: “Recordings of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Recordings of a More Personal Nature” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 125-136 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Mind control, drug use, self-harm, cutting, torture, dissociation, allusions to suicide.

So many things I love about this story:

1. Great background metaphysics — unlike any world building I’ve come across before.
2. The importance of the formation of the self via memories, something I’ve explored quite a bit in my own writing!
3. The way the story combines those two with the way it dwells more on the horror of being cut off from one’s sense of self than on the mechanics of how the archive works.

And I loved the twist at the end, when the reason why this culture depends so on their archive is revealed. This was just an all round very satisfying story.

(Originally published in Apex Magazine November 2013).

REVIEW: “There are No Wrong Answers” by LaShawn M. Wanak

Review of LaShawn M. Wanak, “There are No Wrong Answers”, Podcastle: 505 — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

Sometimes a story doesn’t hit my sweet spot, not through any lack of writing quality, but simply because the structure is one that grates on me. “There are No Wrong Answers” was one of those (suggesting, perhaps, that there are wrong answers) due to the use of the interruptive quiz format that framed and was interspersed with the main narrative. Kudos for the experimental attempt, but it doesn’t work for me personally.

Lana has a talent for designing and analyzing personality tests, her neighbor Madame D (a drag performer and fortune teller) is a talented cold reader. Their intersection over a straying Labrador retriever results in an awkwardly developing friendship as Lana gets prickly over Madame D’s suggestion that their occupations have more in common that she’d like to think. Lana gets hired as lead test administrator for an employment counseling firm, which leads to the major conflict in the story.

The overall shape of the story is an overlay of “protagonist is aided to greater understanding of herself and learns to appreciate people she originally looked down on” and “supernatural powers achieve justice for wrongs done.” The genuine supernatural elements would seem to undermine the original premise that psychological counseling and cold reading are twins of the same parentage, but without them, this wouldn’t be a fantasy story at all.

(Originally published in What Fates Impose edited by Nayad A. Monroe)