REVIEW: “Heirlooms” by Zebib K. A.

Review of Zebib K. A., “Heirlooms,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 11-15 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The narrator and her roommate have recently moved to a new apartment, in a historically Black neighborhood that is succumbing to gentrification. Other people in the building have said they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood, though we the readers are not told why. Why desperately creepy beings start tapping on the narrator’s window in the middle of the night, we begin to get a sense of why — but is she the only one that sees them?

I certainly didn’t expect a horror story when I started this, but that’s definitely what I got!

REVIEW: “Live Oak” by Carly Racklin

Review of Carly Racklin, “Live Oak,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Rory and Finn have just moved to a new house, and it’s not the happily ever after they hoped for. The big tree looming over Rory’s bedroom is clearly haunted — but whoever heard of a haunted tree? Maybe truth of the matter is even deeper and darker than they can imagine.

A lovely creepy little forest horror story.

REVIEW: “The Mother Tree” by Elana Gomel

Review of Elana Gomel, “The Mother Tree,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Non-consensual sex, non-consensual pregnancy.

This was definitely not the sort of story I was expecting, veering off from fantasy to flirt with horror — the horror of pregnancy as your child takes over your body and then your life; the horror of losing a mother; the horror of being trapped in one place, unable to speak, unable to escape.

I loved it.

REVIEW: “You Are Born Exploding” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “You Are Born Exploding”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in an indeterminate time in the future, this story focuses on the dichotomy of the life of the narrator versus the general public. She is rich and can afford security and expensive inoculations. Much of the general population cannot, and some become Shamblers.

She is intrigued by them, especially the ones who voluntarily become Shamblers, and leave the land to dive into the sea. Nobody knows where they go, but she is disillusioned with her existing life and doesn’t seem to mind the unknown. Especially since her life on land isn’t shaping up to be too great.

I loved the beautiful prose, and the pacing. It is a novelette, so a bit longer than your usual short story, but it never drags and is absolutely worth the read. The world-building and hints of how the world functions has so much depth that I’m sure the author has even more detail in his notes than we see in the story. The character development is strong, and the emotional resonance is powerful and heartbreaking. One of my favorite stories of the year!

REVIEW: “Salt and Flowers” by Jessica Lévai

Review of Jessica Lévai, “Salt and Flowers,” Cossmass Infinities 7 (2022): 49-57 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Child abuse, violence, kidnapping.

I was so excited to start this story, because I thought I was going to get good disabled rep (the MC wears braces on her legs); but all hopes were dashed when the story turned out to be one of those “but magic can cure you of the need to wear leg braces!” So this story is a “no” from me.

REVIEW: “External Processors” by Sherry Yuan

Review of Sherry Yuan, “External Processors,” Luna Station Quarterly 51 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I really enjoyed this particular take on the notion of the “extended mind” — the idea that we think with more than just our brain, but also with parts of our environment. Not many people in Nolan’s class are lucky enough to get an ExP — an external processor. After getting one for his 12th birthday, he’s the envy of all his classmates. But the other side of his good fortune is a much darker one. I’m not sure whether this story is SF or horror, but whatever the genre: It’s one of those stories that feels all too real, and hence was very good.

REVIEW: “Anwen’s Song, Efa’s Shoes, and the Halls in the Hills” by Rebecca Harrison

Review of Rebecca Harrison, “Anwen’s Song, Efa’s Shoes, and the Halls in the Hills,” Luna Station Quarterly 51 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This rather overburdened title accompanied a rather verbose and somewhat lyrical story, kicking off in a chanting sort of rhythm instructing me to do all sorts of things — the sort of opening that always puts me on edge. But if you don’t mind this style of writing, then here’s a little tale with a whole load of Welsh-fairy-tale influences for you.

REVIEW: “Redbean” by Dixon March

Review of Dixon March, “Redbean,” Luna Station Quarterly 51 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Larron is pregnant and on probation, her movements, her choices, her life restricted. When her story opens, it is entirely ordinary — up until the moment she finds a package of redbeans, tucked away forgotten on a grocery store shelf. Immediately things shift into the realm of the speculative, in a way that made me anxious with anticipation to find out what’s so special about these redbeans, and how they will change her life (because of course they will. That’s how stories work). I thought I’d get a fairy tale ending; instead I got a horror story!

REVIEW: “In the Grip of Yesterday” by P.A. Cornell

Review of P. A. Cornell, “In the Grip of Yesterday” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 90-92 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Knife and other physical violence, drugs, stalking.

This is SF tinged with horror: Science has advanced enough to synthesize many emotions, and the drug of choice for the narrator is Nostalgia, and it doesn’t take more than one or two kicks of it for it to become addictive.

It’s quite a remarkable story: There’s basically nothing in it that is redeeming, nothing in the narrator to make him sympathetic, not even the ending!

REVIEW: “The Nymph” by JC Hoskins

Review of JC Hoskins, “The Nymph,” Luna Station Quarterly 20 (2014): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I dove into this story with a good deal of trepidation, because second-person, present-tense narration without any purpose always puts me off. So I was greatly, greatly relieved to find out it wasn’t purposeless, and in fact Hoskins uses the different voices to great effect.

A good story for anyone who loves books!