Review of Lila Bowen, “Asylum of Cuckoos”, Apex Magazine 104: Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
Ranger Rhett Walker stops in a small town with his posse, looking for a quick drink and a pause from their slow journey through the desert. When local law takes an interest in him, he assumes it’s because of his brown skin, or maybe because he’s brown and wearing a Ranger’s star. The truth turns out to be much stranger than he imagined, or than his companions will ever know.
This is a story about monsters, and only somewhat the kind you expect. Yes, some of the characters have, shall we say, special abilities that could get them branded as such by the more ordinary folks around them, but I’d say that this story is actually more concerned with their actions, rather than their abilities. It has a nice depth to it.
Rhett’s gender identity (he is a trans man) comes up a few times, due to the nature of the monster he encounters in that tiny town. As far as I can tell, as a cis-gendered woman, the subject seemed to be handled well – his complex feelings about his body are neither swept under the proverbial rug nor made the main focus, and the only person to imply that he isn’t a man is met with the disdain they deserve.
If you like stories about the wild west (particularly stories that don’t whitewash the region and era) or complex thoughts about morality then you’ll like “Asylum of Cuckoos.”