REVIEW: “Standing on the Floodbanks” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Standing on the Floodbnks” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 277-315 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Combat, warfare, blood, nightmares, vomiting, post-traumatic stress, ableism, panic attacks, flashbacks, flooding, racism, objectification, slavery.

The anthology closes with a bang, this nearly-novellette sweeping together all the wonderful disparate skills that Takács has displayed in the rest of the stories in the collection.

There are certain stories that when you read you go “I didn’t know stories could be like that”. This is one of them. I sit here and I struggle to find a way to put into words what made this story so good and why I feel about it the way that I do. I can’t, though, so I will just direct the reader to Aristotle on “katharsis”, and hope that if they read this story too, they will find it as cathartic as I did. It’s gorgeous and painful and almost horrifying and beautiful all at once.

(First published in Gigantosaurus Nov. 2016).

REVIEW: “Lake Mouth” by Casey Hannan

Review of Casey Hannan, “Lake Mouth”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 37-41 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was such a bizarre story. Every single statement is clear and precise, but combined together the result is like a weird fever dream. What is strangest about it is the way that every single statement is said as if it is true and ordinary, with no recognition at all of the strangeness of the amalgamation. Reading it was a fascinating experience.

Equally fascinating was reading the author’s interview at the end, which laid a solid foundation beneath the story and made it that much more believable, weirdness and all.

REVIEW: “Spirit Forms of the Sea” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Spirit Forms of the Sea” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 257-271 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Death, being eaten, death of animals, vomiting.

This story surprised me by being set squarely in our own world — or at least, in a world where there are Croats, where there is a place called Venice. Takács blended the unreal and the real so carefully together in this story I found myself constantly pausing to look up the foreign words — is a ‘táltos’ an imaginary thing or a real? What about the turul? (Real, both). How much of this story is myth, how much is folk tale, and how much is pure fantasy? (So much harder to answer). I love stories like this, where the lines are blurred and where nothing is certain.

(First published in Sword and Mythos, 2014).

REVIEW: “All Talk of Common Sense” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “All Talk of Common Sense” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 273-276 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Ableism, mention of warfare, vomiting.

This story was full of so many vivid visuals — as someone who is mildly afantasiac, I often tend to skip description because it just doesn’t do anything for me; but Takács’s skill makes even a few words come alive in a mental picture, no mean feat! And there’s quite a bit packed into this short little story beyond just vivid mental images: Detailed characterisations, a sufficiency of backstory, and a neat resolution. This is the sort of story you’d give to beginning writers as an example of how to do short stories well.

REVIEW: “The Wiser Move, the Better Choice” by Katherine Kendig

Review of Katherine Kendig, “The Wiser Move, the Better Choice”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The philosophical premise of this story is the relationship between prophecy and free will — if the oracle at Delphi has decreed that Perseus will one day kill his grandfather, what chance does Perseus have in avoiding his fate? (Not that this is the story at hand here — Prophecy-touched Rien and Tia who makes her question her belief in her own free will are nothing like Perseus and the oracle — but it’s a good illustrative example.) I really enjoyed the precise, argumentative, back-and-forth between Rien and Tia, especially Tia’s insistent picking at Rien’s fundamental principles, it appealed to the philosopher in me. 🙂 While the focus of the story was Rien, the influence of Tia on Rien’s life — an influence nearly as strong as Prophecy itself — pervaded the story, and I enjoyed that.

REVIEW: “Keep Moving” by Raluca Balasa

Review of Raluca Balasa, “Keep Moving”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

In this creepy dystopian story, Sarrai lives in a world where social structures are set up to systematically destroy any chance of forming an emotional connection with other people. Love is decried as a spell “that made them hurt when the others did”, and children must be kept moving from one child-rearing institution to another, never knowing their caregivers’ names until they are old enough to do so without forming an attachment to them.

This is quite possibly one of the most horrific foundational principles I’ve ever come across in a story.

REVIEW: “The Gold Chain” by Lucy Stone

Review of Lucy Stone, “The Gold Chain”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t quite do it for me. As a reader, I felt like I was trying to piece together the setting and the context, and reasons why I should be invested in Khane and her miraculous discovery, but that I didn’t have all the pieces to do so. You know how sometimes you read a story and you get a feel that there is so much more that the author knows that they aren’t telling you? I got the opposite feeling here, which unfortunately detracted from my ability to enjoy the story. I did like the hints of Jewish/kabbalistic background that I got, though. I always want more fantasy stories that are written outside the narrow medieval-white-Christian-European norm!