REVIEW: “Two Tails” by Ransom Noble

Review of Ransom Noble, “Two Tails”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 86-99 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story relies heavily on the standard tropes about twins (e.g., “their twin connection”, p. 97), unfortunately to its detriment, in my opinion. Landry and Bellamy are twins training to become professional mermaids when an accident befalls Landry, leaving Bellamy — who has always been the follower — behind. I found Bellamy to be rather flat and personless, primarily defined in relation to her twin, who exerts significant (and sometimes problematic) control over her. I’ve read enough twin stories for the tropes to be familiar, but reading them again here it makes me wonder how much is trope and how much is real, and also how much the story needs Landry and Bellamy to be twins — could it have worked if Landry and Bellamy were merely sisters rather than twins? I think it could have.

This was a story that I found, personally, merely “fine”. In the context of this anthology, it seemed a bit out of place; it was not clear to me what was the place that had been abandoned.

REVIEW: “Mark Twain’s Daughter” by Cath Schaff-Stump

Review of Cath Schaff-Stump, “Mark Twain’s Daughter”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 117-125 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The first thing the snarky, sarcastic, rather rude commentary in my head had to say about this story was, “Oh, look! It’s a story about a woman whose identity is defined by her relationship to a man!” But it’s unfair to judge a story by its title, and Susy’s story is so much more interesting than her relationship to her father. As I read it, I kept thinking, “She could be anyone’s daughter, and I would still read her story.” The appearance of Mark Twain and other members of the Clemens family in the story is almost entirely incidental.

For awhile I also wondered whether this would be another story where the central theme of the anthology — abandoned places — would not be entirely clear. But in the end, the story fit. Places become abandoned when people are abandoned in them — that is how Susy’s story fits the anthology brief.

(Originally appeared in Curcubital 3, 2012.)

REVIEW: “The Parthian Shot” by Dashiell Hammett

Review of Dashiell Hammett, “The Parthian Shot”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 275 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I’m not sure if I should confess the following ignorance of not, but fears of what random people on the internet think of me have never really plagued me much, so: I’d never heard of Dashiell Hammett before reading this piece of flash fic, now nearly 100 years old.

It’s hard to evaluate a story that’s only a paragraph, but as a parent myself, I can sympathise with Paulette, and admire her courage as she does what probably every parent considers doing at least once during their tenure.

But I am not sure why this story is in this anthology. It is the final story in the collection, one which I would expect would cap it off, solidify the experience, that it would match well the way in which the collection opened. But while it is a good little story, it lacks an abandoned place. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the collection (that I’ve read so far).

(Originally published in Smart Shot, 1922)

REVIEW: “The Money Book” by Lara Kristin Herndon

Review of Lara Kristin Herndon, “The Money Book”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 239-249 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The setting for this story is a vague, unsettling, unpleasant future: After the bombs, after the wars, after the virus, after so many people have died. It is a time when so many things that used to have intrinsic value — like money — are now worthless in themselves, worthful only in so far as they can be used to create something of value, something like paper. Paper to record the past, to provide a foundation for the future.

Herndon’s story comes with a heavy weight of significance, palpable in every action on every page. Yet, I was never quite sure what it was that was significant; and for that reason, this story just didn’t quite work for me.

REVIEW: “Making Friends” by Steve Kopka

Review of Steve Kopka, “Making Friends”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 39-56 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I’m very bad at genres, especially all the finely-sliced sub-categories that are out there nowadays. But the beginning of this story made me go, “Oh! That’s what ‘urban fantasy’ is (when it’s not vampire and werewolf romance).” Everything is ordinary and real and familiar, except everything that is extraordinary and fantastic and strange. The lines between two the are blurred, and the result is unsettling — unsettling enough that I decided in the end to also classified it as ‘horror’. Horror isn’t my cup of tea, but the story was compelling nevertheless.

For me, though, this story was let down by the quality of its writing. The prose didn’t feel as finely crafted, and I kept tripping up on little things — small grammatical errors, a word occurring in two sentences in a row, the feeling that I was being given a recitation of facts — that detracted from my enjoyment.

REVIEW: “Nothing Save His Anger” by Chris Bauer

Review of Chris Bauer, “Nothing Save His Anger”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 163-177 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Warning: Avoid if you don’t wish to read about child abuse.

Haunted houses are perhaps the quintessential “abandoned place”, but this is no ordinary ghost story. The main character, Frank, is too complex to be an easily likeable hero. There is a deep thread of control and power running through Frank, his relationship with his parents, and his relationship with the haunted house.

Sometimes people haunt houses, sometimes houses haunt people. It is only when Frank finally confronts the house that has been his touchstone since childhood, that we find out which it is.

REVIEW: “The Last Light” by Miranda Suri

Review of Miranda Suri, “The Last Light”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 147-162 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

“Piracy” has had a variety of connotations and meanings over the years, from armed hijackers sailing the seas to Robin-Hood-esque hackers who redistribute music from the rich to the poor. Suri’s story taps into an intersective version of piracy, one in which hackers can hijack space-ship computers and take them wherever they want in the universe, wherever they can then put the most pressure on those who carry priceless cargo — in space, there are many abandoned places.

One thing about the “Robin Hood” pirates is that they always think what they are doing is morally superior. We praise the historical Robin Hood as all the tales are told from his perspective as he fights against the evil, conniving, and greedy Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John. The Robin Hood in this story is the antagonist, though, and what I enjoyed most about the story was watching the main character, Miss Song, slowly realise that maybe, just maybe, she was one of the bad guys.