REVIEW: "The Spoils" by Aliya Whiteley

Review of Aliya Whiteley, “The Spoils”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 298, (February 27, 2020): Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

Prior to this issue of BCS, I had not read anything by Aliya Whiteley. But after reading this excellent story—perhaps the creepiest tale I’ve read since Megan Arkenberg’s “All In Green Went My Love Riding” in Asimov’s last year—I’ll be primed to read whatever she publishes next.  

“The Spoils” takes place on a world plagued for generations by creatures collectively called the Olme, the latest of which may be the last of its kind. To touch any part of an Olme, even once its dead, marks a person with a foul stench nothing can wash away no matter how long the person lives. Whiteley’s story depicts a gruesome ritual in which various people—for example, the man who first encountered the dying creature—are presented with the eye, or a toenail, or some other part of the Olme. In describing the effects such “gifts” have on the people who receive them, Whiteley also gives us a vivid description of a bifurcated society—some surface dwellers, others cave dwellers—which the existence of the Olme apparently helped create.   

If you’re a fan of horror stories—and even if you’re not—I think you’ll like this story. 

REVIEW: “Blessings Erupt” by Aliya Whiteley


Review of Aliya Whiteley’s, “Blessings Erupt”, Interzone #272: Purchase here. Reviewed by Mark Hepworth

A little way into the future, an ecological catastrophe has left us with a society plagued with the after effects of radioactive plastics. Hope seems to be one of a small number of people able to treat the many people who are dying of tumours caused by the ubiquity of these plastics left over from our former world. The style of setting puts me in mind of her “Brushwork” (Giganotosaurus, May 2016), as it focuses on a small, personal element in the middle of a much larger story. Intriguing elements pop up – some sort of eco-religion, a new economic basis – but the focus tightens on Hope.

Hope is not a well person – quite literally, as she takes the sickness into herself while curing others – and this life with a rare gift has left her bitter yet determined. The real meat of the story is in how others treat her – with thanks, and awe, and gratitude, but maybe not as a real person. The people around her want her to feel her sacrifice makes her a good person, but only because they will feel better if a saint is sacrificing herself for them, rather than them taking advantage of a scapegoat to save themselves.

With prose both beautiful and effective, this story leaves you pondering.