Review of Alex Acks, “Siren”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 271-288. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
I started this story, got interrupted, and then had to restart it a week later, because the initial paragraphs are complicated enough that I need to reread them in order to make sense of what followed.
This is due, in part, to the fact that the first page is in 2nd person narration (which regular readers of my reviews will know…I don’t really like). When the narrator tells me “your species thinks that space is silent”, it’s hard for me to know who/what is being talked about, or who it is that is talking.
A page later, things flip to 1st person POV. The “I” there seems to be the “You” of the previous page; and yet another page later, the “I” becomes “We”. That “We” is an angel of intergalactic death, whom we learn is on a self-imposed exile from their home, “a small planet, blue with oceans, utterly unremarkable” (p. 275). But when they decide to go back home, and they return home, suddenly it is not clear what home means or what their purpose is, at home.
In the end, the angel finds its purpose and its use, and simultaneously I made my way into the story. It’s hard to do alien minds well, and I found Acks’s account distinctive and convincing. And there were space pirates, so, you know, all around: an A+ story, despite my slight wobbles at the beginning.
This story has a particularly interesting author’s note; I have enjoyed the extra dimensions these notes have lent to many of the stories in the anthology, and would love to see more collected volumes start doing this!