REVIEW: “This Secular Technology” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “This Secular Technology” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 137-153 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Blood, injury, cutting, body horror, vomiting,
suffocation, mentions of slavery and death.

Ah, this story…first, I started reading it and then got interrupted and by the time I could get back to it, I had to reread it from the beginning. Then, I wrote up a lovely review of it late one night, only to find in the morning an errant copy/paste had lost it all.

Normally reviewing isn’t quite such a struggle. But in this case, I found it beneficial to reread the beginning parts of it. Takács’s stories are so full of detail that sometimes it can be hard to pick out, on the first go, which ones are important for the story and which are just part of the rich world-building. This one is no exception. In particular, what I really enjoyed about this story was the strong Jewish cultural elements threaded throughout: Many were catalysts for the story, but many were also just part of the background world. So much contemporary SFF is set against a generic Christian background — even generic pagan backdrops are constructed in opposition to Christianity as the dominant religion — and I think this is a such a shame. We need more stories like this one, which remind the reader that the dominant paradigm is not the only one.

(First appeared in Mirror Shards, ed. T. K. Carpenter, 2012).

REVIEW: “Recordings of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Recordings of a More Personal Nature” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 125-136 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Mind control, drug use, self-harm, cutting, torture, dissociation, allusions to suicide.

So many things I love about this story:

1. Great background metaphysics — unlike any world building I’ve come across before.
2. The importance of the formation of the self via memories, something I’ve explored quite a bit in my own writing!
3. The way the story combines those two with the way it dwells more on the horror of being cut off from one’s sense of self than on the mechanics of how the archive works.

And I loved the twist at the end, when the reason why this culture depends so on their archive is revealed. This was just an all round very satisfying story.

(Originally published in Apex Magazine November 2013).

REVIEW: “Good People in a Small Space” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Good People in a Small Space” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 117-123 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Sadism, masochism, cheerful body horror, blood.

A strange little story, with a lot of very distinct and distinctive characters — truly weird and unfamiliar aliens, truly weird and unfamiliar humans. This story really showcases Takács’s exceptional ability at depicting the unknown.

(Originally published on Patreon, 2016.)

REVIEW: “Increasing Police Visibility” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Increasing Police Visibility”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 111-115 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Policing.

In this story, Takács plays on the different ways “alien” can be interpreted in a way that chills this immigrant’s heart. Although first published in 2015, the story holds even more resonance now, given the increasing hatred and xenopobia of countries like the USA and the UK.

(Originally published in Lightspeed June 2015.)

REVIEW: “For Your Optimal Hookboarding Experience” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “For Your Optimal Hookboarding Experience”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 103-109. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Sports accident, physical pain.

This was a quiet, almost meditative piece, alternating between Amira’s solo hookboarding flight and the guidelines, or perhaps rules, to guarantee the titular optimal experience. Amira’s last hookboarding experience was not optimal, but this story feels like a chance for her to exorcise the memories of it. There is little in terms of plot; a lot in terms of beauty of language.

(First appeared in Lackington’s Summer 2014).

REVIEW: “Changing Body Templates” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Changing Body Templates”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 79-102. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Occupation, physical pain from medical
procedures. Brief mentions of torture, drugs, warfare, mind control.

This is a long story broken up into short stories — little few-paragraph or few-page vignettes. I loved the way that this format allowed me to get brief glimpses into the family life of the narrator, and of the work life of them and their colleagues. What I liked less was the way I felt like I was constantly trying to fill in holes and gaps; I found myself having to reread too much to figure out what I was missing to be able to enjoy the entire story in a smooth experience — and even then I was still left with questions (such as how is it that the Orosi are the dominant people, when their technology is so far behind that of the Dathran?)

Even so, the ending packs a heart-rending punch which makes up for a lot. If you like your sci fi apolitical, this is not the story for you.

(First published in Strange Bedfellows, ed. Hayden Trenholm, 2014).

REVIEW: “Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Given Sufficient Desperation”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 65-77 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: ableism, occupation and warfare, physical violence, torture.

“We all do what we can to survive” (p. 69).

This is one of those sly sci-fi stories where the aliens and the science and the experiments slide in almost unnoticed, and when you do realise what’s going on, it’s all the more creepily chilling. As in “Forestspirit, Forestspirit”, Takács draws upon actual science for this story, and provides references at the end (always a plus in my book!). This anchoring of fiction in actual fact also contributes to the overall creepiness!

Takács’s prose in this story is spare and sparse, full of incomplete sentences and short, staccato paragraphs. This sharp rhythm combined with the first-person POV results in a very intimate, personal impression of Vera, the narrator, and I loved the lyricism of it all.

Readers who are looking for more disability representation in their SFF will be interested to know that Vera is dyspraxic.

(First published in Defying Doomsday, ed. by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, 2016).