REVIEW: “Good People in a Small Space” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Good People in a Small Space” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 117-123 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Sadism, masochism, cheerful body horror, blood.

A strange little story, with a lot of very distinct and distinctive characters — truly weird and unfamiliar aliens, truly weird and unfamiliar humans. This story really showcases Takács’s exceptional ability at depicting the unknown.

(Originally published on Patreon, 2016.)

REVIEW: “Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Given Sufficient Desperation”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 65-77 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: ableism, occupation and warfare, physical violence, torture.

“We all do what we can to survive” (p. 69).

This is one of those sly sci-fi stories where the aliens and the science and the experiments slide in almost unnoticed, and when you do realise what’s going on, it’s all the more creepily chilling. As in “Forestspirit, Forestspirit”, Takács draws upon actual science for this story, and provides references at the end (always a plus in my book!). This anchoring of fiction in actual fact also contributes to the overall creepiness!

Takács’s prose in this story is spare and sparse, full of incomplete sentences and short, staccato paragraphs. This sharp rhythm combined with the first-person POV results in a very intimate, personal impression of Vera, the narrator, and I loved the lyricism of it all.

Readers who are looking for more disability representation in their SFF will be interested to know that Vera is dyspraxic.

(First published in Defying Doomsday, ed. by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, 2016).

REVIEW: “Lurking Status” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Lurking Status”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 39-45 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I love it when a story can take something I usually dislike — in this case, second-person POV — and mould it and adapt it into something brilliant. This story isn’t strictly speaking second-person, because there is a definite “I” telling the story, but the “I” spends its time describing what “you” are doing. Rather than feeling like my actions and my thoughts are being dictated by the narration, I felt like I was lurking along with the “I” who narrated, and thus got to see the ordinary “someone is being plagued by some unnamed, unidentified horror” story-line from a completely different angle. I really enjoyed the result.

(Originally published in Siren’s Call no. 25.)

REVIEW: “Remembering Absence” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Remembering Absence”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 262-274. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Content note: Murder.

Don’t ask me how long it’s been since I saw myself die. I can’t remember (p. 262).

What a wonderful opening line — and what an interesting little story on the experience of being a ghost. Thorn’s recounting of the phenomenology of being a ghost I found more compelling than when the narrator (his name is never known) slipped into long monologues about the phenomenology — those tended to bog down a bit. But this story had none of the banality that so many other stories in the anthology did, and all of the beautiful turns of phrases. It was a good story to end the collection on.

(Originally published in Straylight Literary Arts Magazine 2016).

REVIEW: “The Auteur” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “The Auteur”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 98-115 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Simon, Cate, and Edwin all work in a movie rental place, and Cate — self-described “in-house horror specialist” (p. 99) — spends a lot of time rehearsing the merits and demerits of various horror movies to her co-worker Simon. None of them are what he really wants to watch: What he wants access to are the movies Cate, “world-changing auteur of pure horror” (also self-described, p. 101), makes.

It’s difficult to describe a movie in words, and even more difficult with a movie that relies so much on timing, pacing, angles, and sounds, as horror movies do. But that’s what we get in this story when Simon finally gets a chance to see one of Cate’s movies, alternating description of the movie, recounting of dialogue in the movie, and Simon’s reactions to it. In the end, this story felt much more like a clinical description of horror than actually horror itself.

(Originally published in Turn to Ash, 2016).

REVIEW: “Mired” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Mired”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 82-96 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Unlike some of the other stories in this collection, which go more for the grisly and the gory, this story opens with a nightmare scenario so parody-like it’s more amusing than horrifying: A researcher confronts a neon green blob in his closet, while the blob eats his research. (What kind of research? you might ask. Apparently Randolph is the type of pretentious guy who reads Derrida, Hegel, and Nietzsche. He is also the type of guy who when confronted with a neon green blob panics and calls a woman (whose name he doesn’t even remember correctly) to come and sort things out for him — but he’s not even got enough courage to go through with that!)

I sort of feel like I should’ve come away from this story with some great weighty reflections about man’s relationship to his work, and the weight of ideas that are never read or grappled with, or even some sort of sense of kinship to Randolph, an academic philosopher like myself; but he was never really sympathetic enough for me to be all that bothered by what ended up happening to him.

(Originally published in Double Feature Magazine 2016).

REVIEW: “Hair” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Hair”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 12-26 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

The opening line of the opening story in this collection grabbed me viscerally and left me deeply uncomfortable:

Tonight, Theodore voluntarily ingested hair for the first time.

All it took was the insertion of the single world ‘voluntarily’ to conjure up images of some bizarre and creepy fetish — and also to conjure up questions that I must have answered in order to be satisfied: Why does Theodore choose to eat his own hair, and what is the reason for the strange elation it brings him?

In the end, I’m not sure I got any answers: But the sheer creepiness of the story carried me from start to finish almost without allowing me to pause for breath.

(Originally published in DarkFuse, 2016).