REVIEW: “Dancing with Ereshkigal” by Sameem Siddiqui

Review of Sameem Siddiqui, “Dancing with Ereshkigal”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A poignant story that goes all over our solar system and spans goddesses, non-binary characters, low-gravity art forms, and dance. Our protagonist narrates the story as if they are speaking to Pyn, their spouse. The narrator has created, or rather been swept into, a different sort of life since they met Pyn. As we learn more about them, both individually as well as as a couple, we see things are different from what the narrator had initially believed. A moment of clarity reshapes much, so that the dance of the goddess makes more sense.

A lovely story, and I don’t say this just because I already have a weakness for goddesses in fiction.

REVIEW: “The Force Exerted on the Mass of a Body” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “The Force Exerted on the Mass of a Body”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fun yet poignant read about Sifan, and her initial struggles with the much stronger gravitational field of her new short-term home. She’s an inventor, there to help advance space travel. But, it turns out space might be a sentient being. The discoveries are as difficult to shoulder as the exoskeleton she must wear to stay upright. How she deals with the situation and the new revelations make up the bulk of the story. A very interesting approach to space travel for sure.

REVIEW: “Spore” by Tang Fei

Review of Tang Fei, “Spore”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A story of hurt, legacy, and the legacy of hurt. The protagonist has inherited loss and pain from their father, but not his sense of being wronged or passionate need for justice. It sheds light on the fact that we can only sympathize and commiserate; we can empathize, at most. The feeling of having experienced something, however, is not something one can pass on. Nor can you transfer a need for retribution or validation.

You can, however, pass on trauma, opinions and traits, which comes across in this story in a strangely haunting way. Our protagonist’s decisions and choices are affected by this, as well as their father’s attempts at passing on that need for justice. Worth a read for the lovely imagery as well.

REVIEW: “Best-Laid Plans” by David D. Levine

Review of David D. Levine, “Best-Laid Plans”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fun, light story about genetically modified mice at a research station. In space. The station is hit by a micrometeoroid, and Dr. Yan, the researcher, attempts to save the day, and the space station from evacuation. I especially liked the elves – a tantalizing bit I would love to know more about. Overall, this was an exciting, fast paced story, and I’d certainly keep an eye out for more of this author’s work.

REVIEW: “A Home for Mrs. Biswas” by Amal Singh

Review of Amal Singh, “A Home for Mrs. Biswas”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Our protagonists travel between worlds, Earth and Mars and back again. It was written by an Indian author, and being Indian myself, I absolutely loved the representation, not least because this was a beautiful story.There are Hindi words and references scattered throughout, and it made me inordinately happy.

Coming back to the story, it was thoughtful and quiet with restrained emotion. Past lives, memories and the draw of love across generations, millennia and planets make this a heartwarming story of love and hope.

REVIEW: “Your Future is Pending” by Matthew Kressel

Review of Matthew Kressel, “Your Future is Pending”, Clarkesworld Issue 158, November (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

This is a slice of life story about a dystopian future where people get even more engrossed in technology than they already are at present. Virtual reality has taken over, and people stay plugged in for days at a time. To the extent that people have service bots that clean them, because they’re too busy being plugged into the virtual world to even bother with basic hygiene.

Martha works for one of these companies, and her life is real life. She knows the temptations of VR, and actively rejects it. It’s a bleak, allegorical story, and oddly engaging because of it.

Martha’s life, as contrasted with the lives of those who are completely into virtual reality, is much more difficult, ordinary and frustrating. An illuminating insight into the ever increasing gulf between the haves and have-nots.

REVIEW: “Song Xiuyun” by A Que

Review of A Que, “Song Xiuyun”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Clocking in at over 10k words, this is more of a short novella. An arresting take from the very beginning, it drew me in immediately.

The concept in itself is something that has been done before, but not quite in this way. Song Xiuyun loves her son Li Chuan very much, and will believe everything he says to her. Wu Huang drives a remote powered car from the comfort of her home, and picks up Song Xiuyun and Li Chuan as passengers. This is where Song Xiuyun is telling Wu Huang the story, and Wu Huang is often affected by the narrative in a deeply personal way.

The story’s narrative format does increase it’s impact on the reader as well. Both Song Xiuyun and her son Li Chuan try quite hard to make each other happy. The ambiguous ending could go in many ways, but none of the options are perfect. It’s significant because if you think about all the possible options that are presented there, you’ll see that all of them have a tinge of sadness in a certain way.

A lovely tale that is fairly emotional but also about how lies can sometimes be the only thing that can make a loved one happy. A grey area to be sure, but sometimes that’s justified, or at least it can be, if you’re willing to believe in people.

REVIEW: “National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity” by Youha Nam

Review of Youha Nam, “National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in a future dystopian timeline, this story focuses on acceptance, dignity and death. A world where, if you can’t pay survival tax, you’re. In effect, poor people who can’t afford it are taken to the National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity.

When our protagonist gets the final letter asking for payment, she knows this is it. Her hours, not even days, are now numbered. The story is a peek into how she handles this, knowing her own time and manner of death.

The National Center is a place of mild luxury, for people to her to enjoy their last hours. Everyone handles this news and revelation differently, and our protagonist seeks dignity.

Her dignity is a character of the story in itself, something that she clings onto quite strongly.

REVIEW: “An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God” by P H Lee

Review of P H Lee, “An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unusual sort of first contact story. Zhou is a young magistrate in a post where he has to do nothing but stay out of trouble. Indeed, his posting was chosen for this exact reason. Nepotism mixed with his inability to actually take decisions is a larger part of this story than you would expect.

The first contact, the girl creature, is not entirely human, but isn’t not human either. She shows a different kind of life, a different way of existence, one that may bring hope but may also be unsettling for many – and not just due to fear of the unknown. Her life, culture and way of communication is something humans have never seen before. Zhou himself is unsure of how to react to something possibly so monumental that he inadvertently doesn’t.

A nice insight into the bureaucratic systems of old as well..but in space.

REVIEW: “All Electric Ghosts” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “All Electric Ghosts”, Clarkesworld Issue 157, October (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Right off the bat, the world building is detailed and intense. Benny is a man in grief, taking the help of whatever he can to help him survive his loss. There is mention of drug usage, but in a very matter of fact way, which lent yet another nuance to the story. Make no mistake, this is a very nuanced story already. In fact, it feels like the beginning of a much larger story. I would definitely like to read the larger work this seems to be a part of.

Benny gets involved with some aliens, and he quickly forms a bond with them, because they’re the best way he has found to deal with his grief and survive in a better way. He needs them for his next hit, and they need him for vaguely nefarious purposes. Along the way, he finds a tenuous friendship, which hints at the possibility of it turning into a stronger one.

This story will leave you wanting more.