REVIEW: “Legend of the Giant” by Fei Dao

Review of Fei Dao, “Legend of the Giant”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A strange story that veers into philosophical discourse while referencing the meaning of work, beauty and indeed, life.

A tad more abstract than I’ve come to expect from Clarkesworld, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The story follows a mechanical giant who has been tasked with destroying old buildings and creating vitreous bricks out of the debris. These bricks, he has been told, will be useful for future projects. Humans are missing, however, and he doesn’t wonder what shape those projects may take without humanity around.

Except he encounters a killer mecha, a philosopher, and sentient soap bubbles along the way. This shapes and builds his perspective throughout the story.

A good story worth spending time with.

REVIEW: “The Answer Was Snails” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “The Answer Was Snails”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The protagonist, Robin, is trapped in a terrarium by an alien. A mish-mash of creatures who have no business being placed together, but they are. And that’s why every day is a struggle for Robin.

What keeps them going is knowing their partner Annie is nearby, unfortunately trapped in an adjacent terrarium.

It’s difficult for both of them, but they decide to try to be together, if they can’t be free. There’s a lot at stake and they stay strong and hopeful throughout.

REVIEW: “Paper of Elephants” by Brenda Cooper

Review of Brenda Cooper, “Paper of Elephants”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A heartfelt, touching story of two siblings running an elephant sanctuary in Zimbabwe.

David is the finance guy, and Eleanor guides the tours. Siaal, a young elephant, paints, and David decides to sell his artwork as NFTs in order to raise funds to save the sanctuary.

The piece develops and flows beautifully, and we can feel Eleanor’s helplessness and frustration – why should it be so hard to save these beautiful creatures?

Art is the focus, and in a different yet startlingly beautiful and raw way, art saves the day. The ending made my heart happy.

REVIEW: “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril” by Timons Esaias

Review of Timons Esaias, “Excerpts from the Text of an Explanatory Stele Erected for Our Edification by the Scholars of the Outer Orion Tendril”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The story is presented as a combination of personal narratives, transcripts, reports, and police and military conversation and decisions.

The Purple Tide is a cognizant entity who chooses what to and what not to destroy. As the story proceeds, we learn more about the Tide’s personality. Comic relief comes in the form of how humans take themselves way too seriously and try to enforce human rules on what is a blob of seemingly sentient slime.

An example – “The slime destroyed the tollbooths on the north bridge ramps and did not pay any tolls.”

The Purple Tide is an entity made of trash: main component – jelly. Human-made trash was responsible for the creation of the Tide, and slowly, humans are being destroyed by it. The gravity of the situation increases quickly as you go through the story.

An improbable piece of fiction, but nonetheless one that makes you really think about human excesses and callousness.

REVIEW: “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind” by Gregory Feeley

Review of Gregory Feeley, “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unsettling story that was equal parts hopeful and strange. One of those stories you need to read slowly. It’s full of subtleties and the knowledge that humans don’t necessarily know everything.

But Minds are likely to know a lot more, and their relationship isn’t so much symbiotic as coexisting on the planet. Figments transport people to different places and experiences, all in their imagination.

Throw in some speculative fiction and a folk tale narrative sort of Figment experiences, and you get this unsettling, slow paced, Neptune-based tale.

REVIEW: “Experiment Ninety-Four” by Sarah Salcedo

Review of Sarah Salcedo, “Experiment Ninety-Four,” Luna Station Quarterly 49 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Caspian lives “decommissioned space station which orbited a nebula in a remote quadrant of space”, abandoned or forgotten by his parents, he doesn’t know which. During years of trying to stave off boredom and loneliness, Caspian has taken apart almost every instrument on the station, learning how they were made, and how to make his own things, continually experimenting.

Experiment Ninety-Four was the most experiment of all, and neither Caspian nor the reader could ever have imagined the outcome of it. Took me by surprise and resulted in a very satisfying — if slightly horrific and unsettling — story, with the added bonus of the lovely accompanying artwork, courtesy of the author.

(First published in Collective Realms Magazine, January 2021)

REVIEW: “The Winter Garden” by Regina Kanyu Wang

Review of Regina Kanyu Wang, “The Winter Garden”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Alternate universes form the backdrop of this story, with Ms. Wang’s life and choices the primary plot. And what a plot it is. Everything is a choice – the choice to make no choices is also a choice, and one that Ms. Wang ends up taking very often. Not by choice.

It would be repetitive if not for the fact that it was skillfully executed. From coasting through the easy decisions, to choosing the seemingly easy way of checking out an alternate reality where she has an ostensibly better life, she very rarely takes a stand for herself. But not every reality of herself is the same. In another world, she takes decisions more strongly and promptly. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “Dog and Pony Show” by Robert Jeschonek

Review of Robert Jeschonek, “Dog and Pony Show”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Wow, what an insanely creative and unsettling story! A dog isn’t a dog, soft isn’t soft, what breakfast actually could be is unimaginable, and playtime is terrifying torture.

The details and descriptions were written so well, as was our narrator Beneathy. Fantastically paced with well-fleshed out characters, this is a memorable story. I read this twice – the second time simply for the unsettling beauty of the prose.

This month, Clarkesworld stories have all had an element of hope, and this one gave us a bit of that as well. However, the ending was unexpected and so much worse than I would have imagined. Fantastic story.

REVIEW: “Xiaolongbao: Soup Dumplings” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

Review of D.A. Xiaolin Spires, “Xiaolongbao: Soup Dumplings”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A bittersweet story of love, loss, longing and hope. Lyrical prose that sets the tone for the feel of the story as a whole, not just in terms of language.

There’s some magic and some science fiction, combining to make this heart-warming tale. The story revolves around two women who make xiaolongbao, for tradition, memory and umami.

The timeline of this story is set in a modern world, but the lovely prose gives us a timeless sort of feel. Very enjoyable story.

REVIEW: “It is a Pleasure to Receive You” by Ziggy Schutz

Review of Ziggy Schutz, “It is a Pleasure to Receive You”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A vivid story full of hauntingly beautiful prose, language and thought processes.

Of hope and loneliness, how they overlap, and what a difference perspective makes. Of finding someone who understands you, and how genuine affection can change so, so much.

An tale set in the vast expanses of space, but more about exploring yourself. Shining a light on the parts of you that you keep hidden away. Having the courage to break the rules sometimes. Making a difference.

A story about the infinite universe, and acknowledging that sometimes it did feel like all of it revolved around a few people or a few moments. And that can be good. Simply lovely.