REVIEW: “The Clock, Having Seen Its Face in the Mirror, Still Knows Not the Hour” by Adam Stemple

Review of Adam Stemple, “The Clock, Having Seen Its Face in the Mirror, Still Knows Not the Hour”, Clarkesworld Issue 179, August (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Narrated by a clockwork man, who shares snippets of his life with us readers. They are arranged not chronologically, but in an order that makes most sense to him, as he tries to make sense of life. Moments of a rich and varied, yet an almost always unhappy sort of life.

A pensive, rather heavy novelette, but the desolation is broken up by striking moments of kindness and genuine emotion.

REVIEW: “A Thousand Tiny Gods” by Nadia Afifi

Review of Nadia Afifi, “A Thousand Tiny Gods”, Clarkesworld Issue 179, August (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Technology has grown to the extent that nanobots are used for preventative medicine as well as cosmetic treatments.

As with all new tech, there are feelings of general and vague mistrust among the common public, but one much-loved and popular wife of a high-ranking minister is trying to change that perception.

With Manal, our protagonist and a senior programmer for the nanobots, she works towards acceptance. In the process, Manal becomes a stronger, more determined person as well.

A tightly paced story of power, vulnerability, and realizing that real change takes time.

REVIEW: “Candide; Life-” by Beth Goder

Review of Beth Goder, “Candide; Life-”, Clarkesworld Issue 179, August (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A hauntingly beautiful story. The August issue starts off strong!

Seva is a lovely person – a focused, determined, and talented musician. One day, she experiments with a different form of art called emotion capture, one that she has no training or practice in.

Self-doubt is but a natural part of the process of learning something new, but having people who support you goes a long way. Here, it goes in the other direction. But strength comes to us in many different ways, and so it does for Seva as well.

A story about different types of art, trust, self worth, emotions, feelings, and the particular feeling of taking a leap of faith.

REVIEW: “Last Nice Day” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “Last Nice Day”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Our protagonist fancies himself a character out of a book. From the very beginning of the story, you can see that he narrates things, and has an internal dialogue with the reader. As a fictional character, he is a transparent and well-informed one. He talks about flashbacks, narrative styles, supporting characters, and Chekhov’s gun.

It transpires that he also has a subself – he’s a type of agent, a government- trained operative. One who has secret missions. His subself is the one who handles that bit, but to what extent has he been affected by this? Is the pretense at being a fictional protagonist his way of coping? Or is it something else entirely?

There are many elements at play here, and the vivid descriptions add a enjoyable layer to the story.

REVIEW: “The Falling” by M V Melcer

Review of M V Melcer, “The Falling”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The world is falling, and there is a race against time and a “monster” in the sky that’s coming to devour the world.

The engineers try as hard as they can to save the world, but the most they have been able to do is delay the inevitable. After a few years our narrator then becomes an engineer and works to make the world safe, even while trying to escape the clutches of the solar system devouring monster.

This world works on points allotted to everyone, based on which they can live and work in particular rings. It’s not a very pleasant way to organize a society, but people have accepted it. And just like humanity in general, here too there is a streak of happy abandon, even while being acutely aware of the grave possibilities.

There are secrets, classified information, and terrible choices for people to make, and the narrator makes their own choice at the end.

REVIEW: “I’m Feeling Lucky” by Leonid Kaganov

Review of Leonid Kaganov, “I’m Feeling Lucky”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

What a fantastic story! I read it twice. Once really quickly because the story was super engaging, and the second time to just enjoy the details and savor the story. I’m usually a slow reader of short stories because I feel the medium deserves full attention to detail, but stories like this one come along where I just can’t help myself.

Time jumps through temporal clips form the basis of our protagonist’s story. He comes from a world where people started to take advantage of this fact, and rushed headlong into the future in order to arrive at a better world. A world that would be ready for them to enjoy, not really considering that there might be a not-so-great world waiting, not considering that maybe all the time jumps are making things worse.

It’s interesting to see where our protagonist ends up and the journey he takes to get there. A lovely little story.

REVIEW: “Preserved in Amber” by Samantha Murray

Review of Samantha Murray, “Preserved in Amber”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Spaceships are always a great way to start a story, but this ship is a bit different. It looks different, it’s goal is different, and it communicates differently.

We switch between two points of view – one is of a scientist trying to decipher the message coming from the spaceship, the other is another scientist farther in the future who has a different task at hand.

Memory is a strong part of this story, seeping into feelings, thoughts and conversations for both women. Another tale from this Clarkesworld issue about the transient nature of time, with the emphasis here being on the transient nature of humans in time. Longing, memory, and feelings collide to make this a powerful novelette.

REVIEW: “When the Sheaves Are Gathered” by Nick Wolven

Review of Nick Wolven, “When the Sheaves Are Gathered”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A story revolving around Johnny and his chosen family. Gaps in memory that are slowly but surely getting larger, to the extent of forgetting people entirely. Aided by hints of a folk song that takes on a tragic, terrifying color. A childhood memory that brings a certain type of solace.

The walls are closing in, but only metaphorically, because the world is getting larger and lonelier otherwise. A twist comes and makes things better, but the overarching feeling of the transient nature of memory remains. Time is fickle and we are reminded of this through the tale in various ways.

REVIEW: “He Leaps for the Stars, He Leaps for the Stars” by Grace Chan

Review of Grace Chan, “He Leaps for the Stars, He Leaps for the Stars”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I do love futuristic fiction where the protagonists are really sweet and a little different from the usual science-oriented folks. This piece of speculative fiction was set in a future where people have soma projections of themselves and can go wherever they please, without actually going anywhere.

Yennie lives exactly such a life, and he’s a musical star on the rise. But does he want the success because he wants it himself, or because he was genetically selected and predetermined to want it?

Freedom, but not really. Happiness, but maybe not truly. Privacy, not even a pretense of. But hope, friendship and love finds a way.

REVIEW: “Promises We Made Under A Brick-Dark Sky” by Karen Osborne

Review of Karen Osborne, “Promises We Made Under A Brick-Dark Sky”, Clarkesworld Issue 178, July (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Just beautiful. This issue starts off strong and how! Our narrator is a strong, courageous woman and contributes greatly to the beauty of this story.

I’ve said beauty twice already, and I realize that this story really is deserving of that adjective, though the description of the world and the lives lived within it are often anything but.

Osborne’s vivid imagery and fresh descriptions add a different texture to the story, and her clever use of language reveals all in due time. A stark world, a type of God, fear and mistrust, love, code and prayer, and above all, hope.