REVIEW: “Grover: Case #C09 920, ‘The Most Dangerous Blend'” by Edward Edmonds

Review of Edward Edmonds, “Grover: Case #C09 920, ‘The Most Dangerous Blend'”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 159-183 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

A gory opening scene (don’t read if you’re squeamish) segues into what would be a pretty typical detective/mystery story except that within a page we’ve got a suspect and a confession and the only uncertainty left is whether the suspect is telling the truth — and what reason would someone have to lie about negligence-leading-to-death? But Detective Ishani Grover isn’t one to assume the easy answer is the right one, and her investigations continue…until someone else dies.

Detective/mystery stories aren’t really my type, but this one was solid enough to keep me reading, with a plausible resolution and a few twists along the way to it.

REVIEW: “The Heavenly Dreams of Mechanical Trees” by Wendy Nikel

Review of Wendy Nikel, “The Heavenly Dreams of Mechanical Trees”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 141-148 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

What a positively delightful title, and what a perfectly wonderful little story to go with it! I was captivated from the opening line, when we are told:

Trees were never intended to be sentient beings, or God would have created them that way, back in the Garden.

But suppose that they were — how would the course of human history have changed? What would the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil have to say, if it could speak?

The trees in this story that think such thoughts and dream the titular dreams are not descendants of the trees created by God, though; they are mechanical trees, created by man. Machines cannot speak; machines cannot procreate; machines can only dream of these things, and pray to their human creator-gods that a miracle occurs.

REVIEW: “The Call of the Wold” by Holly Schofield

Review of Holly Schofield, “The Call of the Wold”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 67-81 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

If you’re looking for a story of a futuristic commune where the role of King Solomon is played by a 70-year-old itinerant on the run from her environmental charity owning brother, this is the story for you! Julie Leung is an engaging and distinctive choice of main character, and I sympathise with how difficult she finds the balancing act of being an introvert in a world built for extroverts.

I enjoyed the story well enough, though it started off quite introspective, with the external events mostly serving to give Julie reason to pause and reflect on her own life, both past and future, and it never quite lost its slow pace.

(And I have to admit, every single time I saw this title in my “to review” queue, I misread it as “The Call of the Wild”. I have no intentional if the Jack London reference was intentional, but it certainly was inescapable, for me.)

REVIEW: “Riot of the Wind and Sun” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Review of Jennifer Lee Rossman, “Riot of the Wind and Sun”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 29-37 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

The premise of this short — one of the shorter ones in the anthology — starts off quite pessimistic: We often look to the wind and sun to provide us alternative power supplies, providing us with basically endless energy. But there is only as much energy as there are turbines and solar panels and converters and storage for what has been converted, and in Rossman’s future Australia, that power is often hoarded by the major cities, sending the outback villages into blackout.

But the premise of this anthology is stories of a more hopeful future, and the story did not disappoint in its hopeful twist, becoming a story of a village working together to put themselves back on the map, quite literally, and which — and this is truly meant as a compliment — reminded me of nothing so much as Horton Hears a Who.

REVIEW: “Midsummer Night’s Heist” by Commando Jugendstil and Tales from the EV Studio

Review of Commando Jugendstil and Tales from the EV Studio, “Midsummer Night’s Heist”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 117-140 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This story is jointly written by not one but two writer’s collectives — Commando Jugendstil is “a real-life small collective of Italian solarpunk creators” and Tales from the EV Studio is “a posse of emigrant Italian writers who specialise in historical fantasy”. The two come together to collaborate on a story that blurs the lines between fact and fiction, as the main characters are Commando Jugendstil themselves. As each member is introduced — Loopy, Sparky, Dotty, Sprouty, Stabby, Webby, Leccy — it’s not clear how much of this is made-up and how much of this is autobiographical, leaving the reader to decide. I opted to read the story as closer to fact than fiction, and was well-rewarded in doing so, but I believe it would’ve been just as rewarding to read it the other way: It’s a fabulous heist story that hit all my buttons. I loved it.

REVIEW: “Under the Northern Lights” by Charlotte M. Ray

Review of Charlotte M. Ray, “Under the Northern Lights”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 250-270 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This was a cute little love story which I found strangely odd because the narrator seemed so personality-less; his only character trait seemed to be his falling in love with Krista, the woman whose blimp crashed into the lake outside his house. Now, Krista, on the other hand — she was pretty awesome. Confident, ambitious, educated, she I enjoyed reading about enough to feel bad that she had such a bland person falling in love with her, someone whose sole role in the story seemed to be to do that — the fact that the unnamed narrator also happens to cultivate the one thing Krista was searching for especially is a bit too neat of a coincidence. Still, it was a rather sweet way to end the anthology.