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: “Confessions of a Con Girl” by Nick Wolven

Review of Nick Wolven, “Confessions of a Con Girl”, Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December (2017): 35-47 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.

Imposter syndrome turned up to 11.

What if your merit and social worth was not just reliant on your work and outputs, but on how everyone else sees you? Wolven presents a world where all social interaction is managed via Pro/Con votes on your holoscore – visible to everyone. It has resulted in a world of carefully managed interpersonal and online personas and interactions. These are judged and influence your world and professional opportunities as much as your college grades do.

Sophie is in a counselling session at college after she has fallen too far into the red (too many ‘Con’ votes). Wolven uses Sophie’s account of how she got there to discuss the ramification of the Pro/Con system taken to the extreme and how seemingly minor stumbles at different points can ripple outward and elicit negative responses. It also considers what good deeds count and whether the only things that matter are those that are seen and acknowledged by others.

We find out that Sophie has been allowed entry into a select college based on her excellent green holoscore and perceived potential. However this potential is increasingly questioned by herself and fellow students. Does she deserve to be there? Is she a good enough person? Is she capable of it?

I found this story conceptually compelling, but the narrative device of Sophie telling her professor a bit dry and created distance between the reader and the story. An interesting idea, but the story around it could have been more compelling.