REVIEW: “A Report of One’s Honorable Death” by Virginia M. Mohlere

Review of Virginia M. Mohlere, “A Report of One’s Honorable Death”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This makes 2/2 of Mohlere’s stories that I absolutely adored. She has such skill in picking out setting, character, and action with fine precise sentences, no unnecessary words, and constructed to drive straight into your emotional core. In this one, one emotion that kept being tapped was laughter — so many lines that caused me to burst out with it! For example:

“What a curious thing,” the goblin said. “Why would anyone create such an object and then use it only to be rude?”

But it was laughter tempered with the feeling that only comes with the satisfaction of a deep longing.

I can’t wait till I get to read more of her work.

REVIEW: “Unifications” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Unifications” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 181-193 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

As much as I enjoyed reading the collected published oeuvre of Takács, this story, original to this volume, excited me quite a bit. It’s the only one in the volume to not have a content warning, too.

It’s a story of a holy place, a hidden place, a place bound by rules that must not be broken, which Sára finds, and which she takes her friend Judit to see. But then Sára breaks the rules…

I found this to be quite a scary story, in that creeps-up-on-you-behind-your-back sort of unsettling terror. I loved it.

REVIEW: “The Artist” by Koji A. Dae.

Review of Koji A. Dae, “The Artist”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

All too often, art has no — or not enough — place in science, both in science fiction and science fact. In Dae’s SF story, the titular artist plays a central role: Karla Becker is the one who had the important breakthrough in crystallography, she’s the one that people know that value. But when she cannot replicate her breakthrough of two years ago, her single-minded experiments on the very same crystals end up costing her job. What role, then, can the artist play?

The story started off feeling like it was going to be rather depressing and hopeless, but it did not end that way. I loved the feeling of hope, that art, and life, is worth fighting for, that pervading the ending.

REVIEW: “Tonghai” by Linda H. Codega

Review of Linda H. Codega, “Tonghai”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Jian is sailing west down the Tonghai river, “toward the asterism her ancestors called Tiger King”, in search of fresh water. It’s been fifty-eight days since she’s seen another person, and four hundred and eighty-six since she last saw a tellerite.

This was a quiet, reflective story of living in the aftermath of the worst parts of climate change. At times it was beautiful — phrases like “picking up the afterbirth of a hundred civilizations” really resonated with me — and at other times it was cold — not yet hopeless, but serving to remind the reader that the world Jian lives in could be our own in the future. Parts of it touched upon myth, and other parts were calmly pragmatic. I really enjoyed this one!

REVIEW: “The Pet Owner’s Guide to Reptilian Hauntings” by Jerica Taylor

Review of Jerica Taylor, “The Pet Owner’s Guide to Reptilian Hauntings”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love a good title, and as an erstwhile pet owner of reptiles, this is a very good title. This was a fun rollicking story with a moral — never underestimate the importance of a funeral! It’s also a rather painful reflection on the difficulties of parenting, especially when one parent is deployed or otherwise absent. Funny, real, sometimes pathetic — the story lives up to the promise of the title and I really enjoyed it. My favorite of the issue!

REVIEW: “Seeing Utopia” by Lisa Fox

Review of Lisa Fox, “Seeing Utopia”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content warning: Casual ableism.

As the story opens, we are given an imprisoned queen, betrayed in marriage and now helpless in the face of the destruction of her kingdom, and a ghostly rescuer who comes, formless, to set her free. This isn’t a ghost story, but the “ghost” rescuer, Mollo, strangely has more agency than Queen Aclara ever does. While she does release her kingdom in the end, she first acts under Mollo’s guide and impetus, and then at the behest of Gerard, the Sorcerer King’s valet. Never, it seems to me, does she act on her own behalf as a fully fledged agent. In the end, I’m not sure that she was any more free than when she was married to the traitor Sorcerer King.

In the background behind this, and introduced to us only much later into the story, are the witch sisters Myth and Janin. The role they play in the Sorcerer King’s take-over of the kingdom, and in the freeing of Aclara, turned out to be a much more interesting and absorbing story; I wish that more of their side of things had been told. It’s clear that as readers we’re supposed to favor Myth over Janin, but I found Janin fascinating — she was rich and complex and intriguing.

REVIEW: “The Fire Wife” by Erin McNelis

Review of Erin McNelis, “The Fire Wife”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content: War, refugee experiences, subjugation, bodily harm/torture.

Aruna is a firewife, charged with the knowledge of how to light fires and also, despite her status as a servant in the chief’s household, occupying a position of power and authority amongst the women of her clan: When a question come whose answer will “change the course of [her] people forever”, she is the one that must make it on behalf of the others.

At first, the story confused me — though it was full of lively and distinctive characters, and McNelis conveyed a sense of scale that indicated this was but a small facet of a much larger story, I also found myself struggling to figure out who the characters were and how they were related to each other, not just in terms of family but in terms of how they were located in the various power structures. About 2/3 of the way through, though, I realised why I was so confused: The middle third of the story takes place before the first third.

I think the story structure could have been crafted a little bit better, but the story itself was full of pathos and friendship and love and sadness.