REVIEW: “Halsing for the Anchylose” by Stewart C. Baker

Review of Stewart C. Baker, “Halsing for the Anchylose,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 29 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This poem managed to tell a complex story in a compact fashion. Reading it, I felt that it hinted at so much more than it was able to say, and I wondered if the title held clues to what the “more” was. Unfortunately, no dictionary shed any light on either term, so I remain intrigued, but baffled.

REVIEW: “Emily and the What-If Imp” by Gwynne Garfinkle

Review of Gwynne Garfinkle, “Emily and the What-If Imp,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 16-17 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I think lots of people, especially people who take solace in reading and writing speculative fiction, have What-If imps of their own, hanging around and making unwarranted trouble, or if not a What-If imp, one of its cousins. But I think there is some solace in reading this story, whatever kind of imp you’ve got.

REVIEW: “Heirlooms” by Zebib K. A.

Review of Zebib K. A., “Heirlooms,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 11-15 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The narrator and her roommate have recently moved to a new apartment, in a historically Black neighborhood that is succumbing to gentrification. Other people in the building have said they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood, though we the readers are not told why. Why desperately creepy beings start tapping on the narrator’s window in the middle of the night, we begin to get a sense of why — but is she the only one that sees them?

I certainly didn’t expect a horror story when I started this, but that’s definitely what I got!

REVIEW: “Breath of the Dragon King” by Allison King

Review of Allison King, “Breath of the Dragon King,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 9-10 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Drea King’s life began in tragedy, when she was born in the wrong year in a culture that values dragons far beyond rabbits. But the bigger tragedy is the life of an immigrant child, “scared to be separated from their old country and to be freaks in their new one” (p. 10). Drea turns her own personal tragedy into a way of helping all the other Dragons of ’88 in this lovely, hopefully little story.

REVIEW: “Just One Step and Then the Next” by E. N. Díaz

Review of E. N. Díaz, “Just One Step and Then the Next”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A story about quiet resilience. Sometimes you have no choice but to take those small steps of courage. Sometimes the fear is so much, that a little more unfairness can push you into fearlessness. That’s what happened to Doña Chuy.

Dictatorial setups never work long term – you simply can’t win people over with a militaristic approach. This story takes us to the heart of a regular person’s life. We get to see, up close, Doña Chuy’s strength, because what can you be in such situations if not strong?

What else do you possess? A thought-provoking story.

REVIEW: “Other Stories” by Wang Yuan

Review of Wang Yuan, “Other Stories”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fascinating novelette about fiction and time travel and how it comes together in lovely, strange ways. This is a story I read twice, simply because it had so much depth that I had to go back. After the first read, things are revealed, and I immediately started it again, knowing the plot and hence being able to connect the dots better, seeing phrases in a new light.

You can tell that this was quite intricately written, and it’s one of those stories you can keep revisiting. Highly recommend.

REVIEW: “You Are Born Exploding” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “You Are Born Exploding”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in an indeterminate time in the future, this story focuses on the dichotomy of the life of the narrator versus the general public. She is rich and can afford security and expensive inoculations. Much of the general population cannot, and some become Shamblers.

She is intrigued by them, especially the ones who voluntarily become Shamblers, and leave the land to dive into the sea. Nobody knows where they go, but she is disillusioned with her existing life and doesn’t seem to mind the unknown. Especially since her life on land isn’t shaping up to be too great.

I loved the beautiful prose, and the pacing. It is a novelette, so a bit longer than your usual short story, but it never drags and is absolutely worth the read. The world-building and hints of how the world functions has so much depth that I’m sure the author has even more detail in his notes than we see in the story. The character development is strong, and the emotional resonance is powerful and heartbreaking. One of my favorite stories of the year!

REVIEW: “Vegvísir” by David Goodman

Review of David Goodman, “Vegvísir”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

This story is set on a Mars that has been inhabited for generations now. There are very few Earthborn left – many of the humans here are locals, born and raised on Mars. An interesting concept to begin with, and this is just the background!

Loved the prose here. The author does a great job of creating atmosphere, be it the wilds and winds of Mars, or of the Iceland of Gunnar’s family history. A place his grandmother was from. She may have migrated to Mars, but she still loves her skyr and her mythology. Many of the inhabitants, like Gunnar, can trace their origin to Iceland. And with people and their personalities, there also comes a bit of history, story, and old magic.

REVIEW: “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep” by Meghan Feldman

Review of Meghan Feldman, “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Rana is just trying to stay safe, running away from EdiTech and her own demons. But she cannot run too far from either of those things, as they’re embedded deeply within her psyche – both EdiTech and her personal feelings intertwined with and coming back to her sister and what she had to face.

Rana is strong but doesn’t know which way to turn, and it seems like she might be one of those people who “have greatness thrust upon them” – but also power in this case. However, when it really comes down to it, it’s her choice to make. Just as mercy and strength were her own choices to make, even when she could easily have been a less moral person. And that makes all the difference.