REVIEW: “Flesh and Code” by Johanna Arbaiza

Review of Johanna Arbaiza, “Flesh and Code”, in Myths, Monsters, and Mutations, edited by Jessica Augustsson (JayHenge Publications, 2017): 276-305. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I’m always a bit worried when a story starts with a person standing alone, thinking to themselves, because most people tend to think pretty boring thoughts, and if that’s all that’s going to happen, I’m going to be bored — even if the person thinking these thoughts is the intriguely named Deathgleaner. In the end, I wasn’t bored, but I certainly was a bit confused.

It’s a slow building story. The initial world-building is done via a conversation that the Deathgleaner overhears, but there is little enough context to that conversation that the details that are provided are hard to make sense of; I felt as though I was being told quite a bit but that I had no way of understanding what any of it meant. There is (or was? or will be?) a war. There is (definitely is) a shortage of clean water. Probably these two things are connected.

Many of these questions are never answered, which I found frustrating — all the more frustrating because the characters are rich and complex, and excessively intriguing, and I wish that I could fully know and grasp their story.