REVIEW: “A Night Out at a Nice Place” by Nick Mamatas

Review of Nick Mamatas, “A Night Out at a Nice Place”, Apex Magazine 104: Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

An incorporeal intelligence embodies itself for fun (“downlowing into a limbsuit”), and then goes on a blind date with a human being. Fortunately, human beings are space faring at this point, so they do have something to talk about. Mostly, this is a far-future, philosophical dialogue about the nature of reality. It’s short, sharp, and surprisingly light, given the density of the subject matter.

I don’t think I was the ideal audience for this story. Either it was written for somebody much smarter than I am, and it went over my head, or else it was going for a sort of humor that just didn’t hit my personal funny bone. Maybe both. The futuristic slang and mathematical equations made it hard to understand at times and the narrator was a little too alien and superior for my taste (they joked about. destroying the star they were orbiting and wiping out the whole planet after their date made a tedious joke, and refrained because they liked her smile).

All that being said, the ending made me smirk, and I think that the narrator is supposed to be irritating – by the end, it’s clear that they are not as superior to humans as they think they are. The story is short enough that it’s definitely worth checking out, to see if it is to your liking.

REVIEW: “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt

Review of Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt, “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft”, Apex Magazine 102: Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

I am a huge fan of the recent trend of people deconstructing Lovecraft’s work to create new stories, particularly when those stories tackle the racism that crept through his oeuvre. “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft” is an excellent addition to that growing collection.

Jim Payne just wants to sell his great-grandfather’s letters from Lovecraft, get his money, and go home. He has no skin in this game (beyond the desire to get out of debt), and no interest in either his great-grandfather or his famous correspondent. But when he drives down the rutted, unmarked, dirt road dotted with bestial statues, and knocks on the door of a ramshackle house in the hills of New England, it’s no surprise that things get complicated.

Everything about this story fits together nicely. Jim is a wonderful narrator: observant, wry, and with a low tolerance for bullshit, which makes it easy to follow him through his adventure. The plot itself is perfectly compressed without feeling either too big for the word count or too small to be interesting; it’s just right. I thought that the racism – both in Lovecraft’s work and in modern America – was deftly handled, but as a white woman, I defer to the judgment of those who have personally experienced it.

Recommended for fans of Lovecraft, low-key horror, or either The Ballad of Black Tom (Victor LaValle) or Lovecraft Country (Matt Ruff).