REVIEW: “The Grass Bows Down, The Pilgrims Walk Lightly” by Izzy Wasserstein

Review of Izzy Wasserstein, “The Grass Bows Down, The Pilgrims Walk Lightly”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2020): 125–131 (Print) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

The Klevish are an alien civilization who despite their advanced technological status, appear to lead a rather mystic lifestyle. They agree to share some of their knowledge with Earth, provided a human representative can overcome one of their challenges. This time they’ve chosen Erika, a biologist, as Earth’s negotiator for a genetic reclamation technology. The puzzle she must solve is simple: why does a particular species of a tall grass bend as the Klevish pass by it?

This is an excellent example of concise storytelling, covering a lot of ground in only a few paragraphs. There’s a simple, yet powerful poignancy about the world and characters that Wasserstein unfolds throughout her non-linear narrative, adding to a pleasant feeling of melancholy. Erika’s struggle, despite its science fictional backbone, is immensely relatable to anyone who’s had to choose between more than one path in their lives. The sadness that such a choice entails comes through clearly in the story.

Unfortunately, the ending does not quite hold up to the excellent build up, as the Erika’s solution to the Klevish puzzle seems like a hand-wavy attempt to bring the story to a hasty close. It works, but I can’t help but think that cleverer solution exists somewhere out there, one that does try to force the metaphor quite so much.

REVIEW: “The Vixen, With Death Pursuing” by Izzy Wasserstein

Review of Izzy Wasserstein, “The Vixen, With Death Pursuing” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 39-49 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The titular death that is pursuing the vulpemancer is a pestimancer, a pestilence-mage. He first attacked Ravenna, the fox-mage’s lover, and how the fox-mage is the only one left who can find the herbs that will heal Ravenna and all the other struck down by blood lung. But in order to escape the vulpemancer and bring the herbs back, the fox-mage is faced with a dangerous, and potentially life-altering choice.

In this strongly written, compelling story, Wasserstein gives us a different take on what being trans.

REVIEW: “The Crafter at the Web’s Heart” by Izzy Wasserstein

Review of Izzy Wasserstein, “The Crafter at the Web’s Heart”, Apex Magazine 117 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

The city of Traverse huddles atop a giant spiderweb, with strands for streets and buildings perched atop it all, stretching out from the Drop in the center. Many of its residents are magic workers, but magic has a side effect in this place – its use slowly transforms the practitioner. But all of that is simply the stunning backdrop upon which this story takes place.

Danae thinks that Pliny, the bookseller and Bibliomancer, has given her a job like any other: to deliver a package to a client in the further out along the web. The adventure than ensues forces her to confront some truths about the people and the world she lives in, but also about herself. At it’s heart this reads as a coming-of-age story, at least to me. Danae must decide who and what she wants to be, and reach for that potential.

The story is good – I enjoyed Danae and wouldn’t mind reading more about her – but what I truly fell in love with here is the world. I would happily read another dozen stories set in in Traverse. It’s not just that it’s unique, but that the city feels like it could easily contain that many stories. It feels rich and nuanced with shadows and layers that we can’t quite see.