REVIEW: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 241-256 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: blood, injury, masochism, kinkshaming, misgendering, warfare, mention of slavery.

Take the content note seriously: We are dropped immediately into the midst of blood and destruction when an unexpected visitor arrives on the narrator’s doorstep, begging their assistance.

There are so many aspects of this story that I could highlight, but I will pick out just one, and that is how intensely physical it is, deeply, gut-wrenchingly, in a way that is entire unerotic and unsexual. It hit me at a very visceral level, touched me in a way that no other story in this volume did — as much as I enjoyed all of them — and I have a hard time articulating just how good this story is — one of the best I’ve read this year — in the context of a review. My words fail. I loved it.

(First published in Capricious 2015).

REVIEW: “Wind-Lashed Vehicles of Bone” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Wind-Lashed Vehicles of Bone” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 235-239 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Pain exchange, scarification, mention of death and suicide.

Araana is a dreamer, who dreams distant and unknown futures. He’s not sure why — is it magic? Or is it a much more mundane explanation? — but the glimpses he sees appeal to the engineer inside him. Maybe, with the help of Ujabir the town mage, maybe he can make that distant future become present.

This story had almost a steam-punk feel to it, atypical for the other stories in this collection, but entirely suited to this story. The story is full of fierce joy and hope, and I really enjoyed it.

(First published in 2017 on Patreon.)

REVIEW: “Toward the Luminous Towers” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Toward the Luminous Towers” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 221-233 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Warfare, combat, drug use, death, murder, injury, amputation, ableism, dehumanization, suicide.

Sometimes, reading a story, I can’t help but think what a mystery the human mind is, that it can come up with such things. Takács takes the reader into a pretty dark place in this story — all the content warnings above are necessary in this one, and even for someone who does not particularly struggle with any of these topics, I found this an unsettling and distressing story.

(Originally published in Clarkesworld #120, 2016).

REVIEW: “The Oracle of DARPA” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “The Oracle of DARPA” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 217-220 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Weapons development.

One part technical report, two parts poetry, this is an excellent example of speculative fiction. It’s very short, but it wasn’t until almost the very end that I had a sudden realisation of where it was going. Very satisfying.

(First published in Toasted Cake no. 81, 2012).

REVIEW: “Shovelware” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Shovelware” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 213-216 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Allusions to civil war.

I know a lot of writers are uncertain of how to write a diverse cast of characters because they don’t know how to introduce the diversity without making it a plot point. Any writer who feels like they need a master class in how to do this should read this story: What I loved most about it was how cheerfully and blatantly Takács it. Liliane is “tall, muscular, ethnically mixed” (p. 213), but, as she tells Tamás when they first meet, she’s not Muslim. Tamás is an immigrant, and gay. With the exception of the first (which the omniscient narrator tells us), all the other facts come out in conversation. Because that’s how it works — people talk about who they are. If you’re gay, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re a Muslim or not, it’s just part of who you are and how you want people to see you (or not). Reading stories like this is reassuring to me as a writer — because it shows it isn’t that hard! — and as a reader, because knowing this sort of thing can be done makes reassures me of the increasing likelihood that I can find stories with characters like me.

Other than that, the story seemed almost ordinary — nothing very deep or technical or fantastical beyond two people who meet and become friends — but the final three paragraphs turned that impression on its head. Yet again, Takács shows they know how to deliver a subtle punch when you least expect it.

(First published in Nature March 10, 2016).

REVIEW: “To Rebalance the Body” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “To Rebalance the Body” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 199-212 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I was a bit surprised that this story didn’t come with a content note, so I’ll add one of my own — if body-modification or vampirism isn’t your thing, avoid this story.

Ordinary vampires are generally neither my thing nor not my thing, but Master Viiren in this story is no ordinary vampire. With all their usual skill, Takács takes a character type and turns it into something on the border between creepy and unsettling. Master Viiren has an illness for which they take medicine, a medicine which they receive from vesicles on the skin of their servant, Biruyan. There is a deep physical intimacy between the two, and the narrators obsequiousness to their master makes it almost uncomfortable to witness.

What was not so uncomfortable, for me at least, was the direct way in which both Biruyan and Master Viiren confront the problematic consequences of adherence to a gender binary and a sex binary. While issues of gender and sex are threaded throughout the stories in this volume, only a few of the stories explicitly revolve around the topic, and its strongest in this one. It’s one of the thins that I’ve loved about this collection as a whole: How much gender matters, but how much also it doesn’t have to be central, but (on the third hand) how much it also can be the central guiding force of a story, and also how gender and sex are intertwined.

(First published in Nerve Endings, ed. T. Hill-Meyer, 2017).

REVIEW: “The Size of a Barleycorn, Encased in Lead” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “The Size of a Barleycorn, Encased in Lead” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 195-198 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Mentions of nuclear warfare.

The story itself reflects its title, being small, compact, and feeling almost as if it is made up out of little kernels itself. Much of the story is constructed out of quotes drawn from other sources, primarily from the Old Testament and the Talmud, translated by Takács and then woven together into a beautiful whole. It’s just so well-crafted and constructed, there is aesthetic pleasure alone from that level, on top of the enjoyment deriving from the actual story. I just loved this one, possibly my favorite of the volume.

(First published in Uncanny Magazine 15, 2017).