REVIEW: “Aurelia” by Lisa Mason

Review of Lisa Mason, “Aurelia”, Fantasy & Science Fiction 134, 1-2 (2018): 39-60 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Michael Johnston.

This one surprised me.  The first few paragraphs left me cold, seeming to be headed to a place I don’t like in my fiction.  But the moment the despicable-but-charming Robert meets Aurelia, the story had its hooks in me.

I’m not usually a fan of psychological horror, and this story bridges the gap between “dark fantasy” and “horror” quite deftly, but it’s more of an uneasy Gaiman-esque kind of thing than anything actually horrific.  The disquieting story of Robert and Aurelia seems to march on despite the reader’s uneasy feelings, and it ends up exactly where it needs to.

REVIEW: “Neanderthals” by Gardner Dozois

Review of Gardner Dozois, “Neanderthals”, Fantasy & Science Fiction 134, 1-2 (2018): 39-60 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Michael Johnston.

“Neanderthals” begins with a series of images that quickly and effectively give the reader an idea of where you are in time and space–and then the rest of the story demolishes that security.  What you think is happening isn’t.

It’s a great story, and a very quick read–I read it over lunch, and I didn’t linger.  It’s deceptively simple in that the events of the story aren’t all that complicated, but a day after reading it, I’m still thinking through some of the implications and possibilities.

REVIEW: “Evil Opposite” by Naomi Kritzer

Review of Naomi Kritzer, “Evil Opposite”, Fantasy & Science Fiction 133, 3-4 (2017): 8-19 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Michael Johnston.

As a man who fled from graduate school only a couple of semesters in, and as someone who has spent perhaps too much time worrying about past mistakes, I fell right into this story of a graduate student in Physics who builds a machine that allows him to look into alternate realities where he made different choices.

As he peeks in at each life, he sees some of the mistakes he’s made in his past, but Kritzer deftly avoids making him mawkish at the opportunities he’s missed. However, there’s a cost to using the machine, which our protagonist eventually realizes, and a moment where I wonder if the professor whose notes he used to build the machine maybe wasn’t as ignorant of it as he seemed.

The Moment of Truth is a good one, and while Kritzer could easily have built a novel around this concept, I think her choice of where to end and how to do it was the best option. She has, however, left a door open for a linked story if she ever chooses to pick up this story again.