REVIEW: “Where Gods Dance” by Ben Serna-Grey

Review of Ben Serna-Grey, “Where Gods Dance”, Apex Magazine 118 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

This is a story about grief, and the unbearable loss of a child. The narrator tries again and again and again to hold onto some small bit of what he has lost, with disastrous results.

This is more of a mood piece than a clear narrative, but that works well for such a short story. It invokes a host of complicated emotions, far more than could be fit if they need to be tied to a strict progression of scenes. I appreciate the way Serna-Grey refuses to shy away from the confusing tumult of the narrator’s feelings, nor from his increasingly desperate decisions.

REVIEW: “Agent of Chaos” by Jack Campbell

Review of Jack Campbell, “Agent of Chaos”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 76-97. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey

This one is dripping with a lot of writer humor, though it’s not so absorbed in the community that it’ll alienate anyone who hasn’t tried to break into the writing world. The story follows Suzanne, a woman who is following her muse, in this case Calliope, an actual, physical muse who leads her into danger, all in the name of adventure and inspiration. After all is said and done it’s going to be a question of if Suzanne even wants to be a writer anymore.

I don’t want to give too much away, but this story dances just between the line of being clever and being groan-inducing, and luckily never falls into the groan side of things. It’s a funny page turner, which is good since it’s one of the longer pieces so far in the anthology. Definitely recommended.

REVIEW: “Tyler the Snot Elemental Scours the Newspaper, Searching for Change” by Zach Shepard

Review of Zach Shepard, “Tyler the Snot Elemental Scours the Newspaper, Searching for Change”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 68-75. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This one is very, very cute and clever. As it would have you guess, it follows Tyler, a snot elemental, who feels lost in life and tries to make a change. Along the way we’re introduced to his friends, each of whom is a fantasy creature of some sort of variety and this is often used to subvert any built up expectations in some way or another. It does have some poignancy to anyone who is feeling particularly lost or wandering in their own life, and may need a bit of a reminder to seek the comfort of friends once in a while.

Highly recommended.

REVIEW: “Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About My CraigsList Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale. $200, you Haul.” by Tina Connolly

Review of Tina Connolly, “Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About my CraigsList Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale. $200, you Haul.”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 64-67. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This one is pretty funny overall. Personally stories have a high chance of growing old quickly when it’s a clever/funny epistolary story, especially in the form of a quippy instruction manual or the like. But this one developed fairly well, pulled some genuine laughs from me, and didn’t overstay its welcome.

With Tina Connolly having the pedigree she does, I’m not surprised she pulled this one off so well. Recommended.

Review: “From This She Makes a Living?” by Esther Friesner

Review of Esther Friesner, “From This She Makes a Living?”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 43-63. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Esther Friesner has a pretty strong pedigree backing her up, with a Nebula Award, a huge stack of novels, plays, poems, and short stories to her name, as well as a popular Baen anthology series Chicks in Chainmail. I have to admit this is the first of her works that I’ve read, though. With that being said, maybe if you’re already a fan of her work you’ll really dig this, but personally it fell flat. The writing is good overall, and I hope it does work for you a lot better than it did me, though.

It’s a quirky and fourth wall-breaking piece of Jewish humor, with frequent interruptions and secondary narrative in the form of footnotes translating Yiddish words and phrases. The thing that most took me out of the piece was the frequent interruptions with the footnotes, as it began to feel like a joke that had been carried well past its expiration.

The story is set in a sort of in-between limbo-esque world where a bunch of Jews seem to get caught in a timeless existence, where people from all different time periods end up. Everything comes to a head when a young modern woman and a dragon are pulled into this world and the citizenry have to figure out how to deal with both the dragon and this independent young woman.

If you like quippy metafiction then this is probably a good piece for you, and it did start out as a good piece for me until it got a little stale, but it did grab my interest enough to check out more of Friesner’s work.

REVIEW: “A Game of Goblins” by Jim C. Hines

Review of Jim C. Hines, “A Game of Goblins”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 8-27. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This is my first time reading one of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy courtesy of the publisher as a reviewer for SFF Reviews.

With that out of the way, I have to say I did enjoy this clever little story that pokes a lot of fun at high fantasy tropes, especially the ritualism and hierarchy of human society. There wasn’t really anything in this one that made me legitimately laugh, more the sort of humor where you snort a little and go “that’s funny.” I did however thoroughly enjoy this one, which is apparently an offshoot of Hines’s Goblin Quest series, and definitely has me interested in checking that one out more.

The story centers on the conceit of the various human clans vying for dominance, which leads to the Loncasters invading the home of Golaka, our main protagonist and the resident cook for her goblin tribe. They end up kidnapping her and promising her in marriage to the young lad who is to be the next in line for the throne.

Like a lot of stories that lampoon racial (and racist) tropes, Golaka ends up being the most clever out of all of them, and outwitting her captors, winning her freedom and the admiration of the young boy she was betrothed to. A great intro story for the anthology.

 

REVIEW: “Not Quite Taken” by KL Pereira

Review of KL Pereira, “Not Quite Taken”, Lamplight Volume 6 Issue 2, December 2017.  pp. 6-10. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

 

A grim little story written in second person about someone–you–decomposing. Evidently this is something you’ve done before, as it talks about your rituals, as well as painful memories from when this first started. Lamplight does label itself as a magazine of dark fiction, and though I’ve submitted stories in the past this is actually one of the first issues I’ve ever read. KL Pereira is the featured author for this issue so there is some more work from them, and I’m eager to see what else they’ve got for me.

A very good story, but as I’ve said in the past, second person rarely works for me as well as first or second. Still, I’d definitely recommend a read if you want some short and punchy body horror.