REVIEW: “You Are Born Exploding” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “You Are Born Exploding”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in an indeterminate time in the future, this story focuses on the dichotomy of the life of the narrator versus the general public. She is rich and can afford security and expensive inoculations. Much of the general population cannot, and some become Shamblers.

She is intrigued by them, especially the ones who voluntarily become Shamblers, and leave the land to dive into the sea. Nobody knows where they go, but she is disillusioned with her existing life and doesn’t seem to mind the unknown. Especially since her life on land isn’t shaping up to be too great.

I loved the beautiful prose, and the pacing. It is a novelette, so a bit longer than your usual short story, but it never drags and is absolutely worth the read. The world-building and hints of how the world functions has so much depth that I’m sure the author has even more detail in his notes than we see in the story. The character development is strong, and the emotional resonance is powerful and heartbreaking. One of my favorite stories of the year!

REVIEW: “Vegvísir” by David Goodman

Review of David Goodman, “Vegvísir”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

This story is set on a Mars that has been inhabited for generations now. There are very few Earthborn left – many of the humans here are locals, born and raised on Mars. An interesting concept to begin with, and this is just the background!

Loved the prose here. The author does a great job of creating atmosphere, be it the wilds and winds of Mars, or of the Iceland of Gunnar’s family history. A place his grandmother was from. She may have migrated to Mars, but she still loves her skyr and her mythology. Many of the inhabitants, like Gunnar, can trace their origin to Iceland. And with people and their personalities, there also comes a bit of history, story, and old magic.

REVIEW: “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep” by Meghan Feldman

Review of Meghan Feldman, “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Rana is just trying to stay safe, running away from EdiTech and her own demons. But she cannot run too far from either of those things, as they’re embedded deeply within her psyche – both EdiTech and her personal feelings intertwined with and coming back to her sister and what she had to face.

Rana is strong but doesn’t know which way to turn, and it seems like she might be one of those people who “have greatness thrust upon them” – but also power in this case. However, when it really comes down to it, it’s her choice to make. Just as mercy and strength were her own choices to make, even when she could easily have been a less moral person. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “The Cold Calculations”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I don’t know where to begin with this story. So beautiful, so heartbreaking, so powerful. I don’t think any review can do justice. Some parts made me emotional, and near the conclusion I had goosebumps the entire time.

It’s about hopefulness in the midst of adversity and difficulty. But hope is not enough – there must be action, and action can start with just one person. Nobody is too small to make a difference. The titular cold calculations that are ever-present in the world, from years past to the present day, where technical difficulties and paperwork sometimes overlook the fact that each number is an actual, living person. And a person is not an expendable resource.

REVIEW: “The Death Haiku of the Azure Five” by L Chan

Review of L. Chan, “The Death Haiku of the Azure Five”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A very technical sort of story, maybe we could call it hard science fiction? It’s a war fought in outer space, by AI. And these particular second-gen AIs don’t have much in the way of free will. What they do have, is a bit of poetry at the end of their lives. Poetry they can write near death, participating in a war they don’t really want to fight.

But they have a little family, and they look out for each other. Suffused with emotion amidst all the technicality, it makes for an interesting read!

REVIEW: “Between Zero and One There is Infinity” by Shari Paul

Review of Shari Paul, “Between Zero and One There is Infinity”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A high stakes story that pulls you into it right from the beginning. There’s habitation on Mars, humans coexisting with (and also fighting with) alien invaders, people being uploaded to computers, and space pirates!

So many elements in this novelette, and all of them paced super well in a tight plot. The characters are fleshed out so well, even the minor ones. A very engaging read, and you’ll definitely love it if any of these settings/character types appeal to you. To be frank, you’d enjoy it even otherwise!

REVIEW: “The Language Birds Speak” by Rebecca Campbell

Review of Rebecca Campbell, “The Language Birds Speak”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A hauntingly lovely novelette. We, readers and writers, love words. Words can do so much, but there is another layer of deeper feeling where words do not entirely suffice. This story beautifully explores that.

There’s also a nice slow build up of dread from almost the start, though we may not know what we’re dreading. But it escalates quite nicely to a satisfying conclusion. There’s also a lovely hopeful ending.

We can do a lot with words, but there’s so much more to emotion, feeling and desire than words can do justice to.

REVIEW: “City of Eternity” by Pan Haitian

Review of Pan Haitian, “City of Eternity”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Very beautiful prose. I always enjoy reading translated fiction; the word choices and the way the language flows is just different from stories written originally in English. It’s nice to see different style choices in fiction, especially in short fiction.

A lovely story about time and how we perceive it. Do wars mean anything when you’ve experienced endless time, or the rise and fall of civilization? Does love? When does enlightenment really occur?

These are the questions this story explores, and it is quite a lovely thing to see.

REVIEW: “This Stitch, This Time” by Anna Martino

Review of Anna Martino, “This Stitch, This Time”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Very imaginative concept. Just like the last story from this issue of Clarkesworld, I find it enjoyable when disparate passions are combined to make a beautiful tale. Space suit seamstress is a science fiction profession I have not encountered before, and I love it!

A quick read, yet suffused with a lot of emotion.

REVIEW: “Dark Waters Still Flow” by Alice Towey

Review of Alice Towey, “Dark Waters Still Flow”, Clarkesworld Issue 182, November (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Such a good story! Soft yet logical, I enjoyed every sentence. I don’t mean to sound partial, but this is why I love women science fiction writers. There was such beauty in the descriptions, the poetry, the minute details – this is a story you want to take the time to absorb.

The level of detail in this story surprised me, and then I read that apart from writing, Towey works as a civil engineer specializing in water resources management. That explains why she had such knowledge of the subject at hand. I do love it when writers combine their two favored disciplines in this manner.

Very enjoyable story. Read slowly. Savor it.