Review of Andrea Tang, “The Man in the Crimson Coat”, Apex Magazine 100 (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
The story opens in a bar, where a woman named Jo watches a piano man with a shiny cybernetic hand, so we know right away that we’re reading some sci-fi noir. That could go in the direction of parody, but instead takes itself just seriously enough to tell a great story. The world is both futuristic and retro, but never campy. It suggests that even in a future with advanced technology, society will still need seedy bars and cheap motels. People will still be people. It’s an appropriate mood for a story about the importance of human connection.
The narrative interweaves a present-day adventure with back story that eventually makes a seamless whole. I found the flashbacks hard to get into at first, but they eventually yield some of the most touching material, particularly on a second reading. They’re not extra, but necessary to the plot, and I admire the way Tang structures them, concealing and revealing in just the right amounts.
The ending is perfect – both surprising and inevitable – and illuminated the whole story that preceded it.