REVIEW: “The Plague-Eater” by Caspian Gray

Review of Caspian Gray, “The Plague-Eater”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 65-81 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

From the start of the story, a few things are clear: Todd, Miguel, and Pills have the comfortable rapport of the best of friends, and Pills is very ill.

What do two friends do when a third is sick? Anything they can to help, it turns out, and for Miguel, that “anything” includes seeking out a night nurse to help care for her — and not any old night nurse, but a plague-eater. (The fact that he can invite Todd along on a not-a-date is an added bonus.)

This was a wonderfully done story — there’s fantasy, with Miguel’s pursuit of the plague eater; there’s romance, between Miguel and Todd; but the central themes that run through the story are deeper, sadder. Pills’ slow succumbing to cancer. The importance of chosen-families. The isolation of blood-family rejection. — which keeps the reader on the edge of uncertainty concerning the outcome, right all the way up until the very end.

REVIEW: “Familiar” by kx carys

Review of kx carys, “Familiar”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 63-64 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Another vignette-type piece, “Familiar” is a brief slice in the live of Margaux and Cassia, witches and lovers. Cassia needs a familiar, and she wants a raven; Margaux thinks that’s gauche. Cassia doesn’t want another cat, and eventually she brings Margaux around.

Because the story was so short, there was little character development or anything else to give me a sense of why the resolution came about the way that it did. I would have liked to have seen more, to have this turned into a rounder, deeper story. But I’m glad Cassia got her raven in the end.

REVIEW: “Venus Conjunct Saturn” by Claire Rudy Foster

Review of Claire Rudy Foster, “Venus Conjunct Saturn”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 48-62 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Angie knows better than to give any credit to her horoscope. After all, she’s an actual scientist, and “She knew astrology was a qualitative, atmospheric science, like meteorology” (p. 48; dear reader, I may have snorked my tea reading that line.) Birthdays shouldn’t matter. The stars and planets aligning in the skies shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter that all the signs point against “Venus Conjunct Saturn”: Angie was going to go out with Kate anyway.

In an anthology that wants to center queer characters, this story does a great job. Angie is trans; Kate is bisexual. These things matter to the story, of course,—of course they do, how could they not?—but they somehow manage to be both the focus of the story and not the focus of the story at the same time. For awhile in the middle I was desperately worried that everything was going to go wrong for Angie and Kate but — spoiler — it doesn’t.

We need more happy ending stories like this one.

REVIEW: “In the Strange Places in the City” by Meghan Cunningham

Review of Meghan Cunningham, “In the Strange Places in the City”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 45-47 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This is more a series of vignettes than a story, painting six little pictures of the city. The little scenes are each lovely and evocative, but I find I don’t have much more to say about this piece than that.

REVIEW: “Perseus on Two Wheels” by H. Pueyo

Review of H. Pueyo, “Perseus on Two Wheels”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 35-44 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

It’s one thing when the gods start answering the prayers of their petitioners.

It’s another thing when they start answering the prayers of their petitioners…but not all of them, no matter how hard they prayed. When the gods didn’t answer Perseu Batista’s prayers, he “had to afford the transition all by himself, clandestine hormones and all” (p. 36).

Which turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing: For when “the king”, the one with the power to command the gods began to lose control, Perseu of all the people in Morro do Alderamin didn’t have to worry about losing what the gods had given, because they’d never given him anything, he’d bought his new body and his new life himself. Which means that he’s got nothing to lose, when he hears that the king has tied his daughter Andressa to the radio mast to sacrifice her to the gods.

It took a few pages for me to clock which story this tale was retelling, and then I grinned the entire rest of the way through. What a lovely, light-hearted, happy story.

REVIEW: “The City of Cats” by Victoria Zelvin

Review of Victoria Zelvin, “The City of Cats”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 28-34 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Naoko draws cats, and “she’s very good at it” (p. 28). Every morning before her wife leaves for work, she draws one for her. Her other cats roam the city, drawn on walls, on buildings, on sidewalks. No one ever sees Naoko draw them, but they are all hers. The city itself is also filled with live cats — more than there are people, Naoko’s wife (the narrator) sometimes wonders — and Naoko and her wife have their own live cat as well, Bubbles.

When Naoko says she draws cats for her wife for luck, for safety, she means it in a very real, concrete sense, as her wife learns by the end of this is quick, sweet tale.

REVIEW: “Neon” by M. Raoulee

Review of M. Raoulee, “Neon”, in Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of the City That Never Was, edited by Dave Ring, (Mason Jar Press, 2018): 7–27 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This, as they say, is a story with all the feels. Wonder, uncertainty, tugging at heart-strings, strangeness, confusion, delight, tenderness.

“Neon” is the story of motorcycle-builder, combustion-lover, financial-advisor, heretic Quinn, who lives in a realm where electricity has taken over everything, including and most especially motors; few people, any more, care about the old combustion engines, and those that do — the riders — are tarred as misfits and outcasts. His city is filled with Sylphs and Fulminations and Undines and Shades who travel through the aether, and who can be called from the aether to perform services. Quinn’s world is one where enchantment and sorcery is entwined with electricity and salt and heresy. So much of this we can see on the surface of the story; and so much more is hinted beneath. I loved the way that Raoulee built such a detailed picture of the unknown city, and yet so much of the details to the reader to fill in. I loved seeing the way in which Quinn interacted with his friends, associates, and employers, and from the moment he stumbled into Archae and Archae got onto Quinn’s motorcycle behind him, I loved Archae. A stellar start to the anthology!