REVIEW: “Love Unflinching, at Low- to Zero-G” by M. L. Clark

Review of M. L. Clark, “Love Unflinching, at Low- to Zero-G”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A veterinarian in space wrangles with ethics, morality and duty, with inter-species collaborative space stations thrown in for good measure.

The Doc is getting on in years, but they are still very committed to ensuring a healthy, balanced existence on the station, amongst all species and their companions. But humans are only human, after all, and Doc takes it upon themselves to try and diffuse the situation before it becomes a potentially disastrous actual situation.

The descriptions were lovely, the characters were well-defined, and the ending was particularly poignant. Long yet engaging.

REVIEW: “What Has Waited Between the Stars” by Daphne Fama

Review of Daphne Fama, “What Has Waited Between the Stars,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Woman breaks up with her girlfriend, takes to the stars, crashes on a lonely planet: A simple, and not especially original, premise. The only thing that kept me going through the opening paragraphs was the hint of the title, the promise that I might be dazzled with something unexpected.

The abrupt shift the story took about three quarters of the way through was certainly unexpected, but I think I ended up more perplexed than dazzled. And odd little SF tale!

REVIEW: “Chokeleaf” by M.J. Garland

Review of M.J. Garland, “Chokeleaf,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Depression and suicidal ideation.

Chokeleaf — or Ficus effusio, to give it its Latin name — is an invasive species, and the Trailblazers are there to do their part in eradicating it. The Trailblazers themselves are a motley group of do-gooders, college drop outs, and know-it-alls, the only thing united them is a desire to help rid the park of this plant, which is threatening not only the local wildlife, but the human visitors as well. Through the eight weeks they spend at the park, we learn about Steph, and her past, the people she’s left behind and the life she would like to get back do. Despite the fantasy elements, there is something that feels very real about this story.

REVIEW: “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind” by Gregory Feeley

Review of Gregory Feeley, “In a Net I Seek to Hold the Wind”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

An unsettling story that was equal parts hopeful and strange. One of those stories you need to read slowly. It’s full of subtleties and the knowledge that humans don’t necessarily know everything.

But Minds are likely to know a lot more, and their relationship isn’t so much symbiotic as coexisting on the planet. Figments transport people to different places and experiences, all in their imagination.

Throw in some speculative fiction and a folk tale narrative sort of Figment experiences, and you get this unsettling, slow paced, Neptune-based tale.

REVIEW: “The Winter Garden” by Regina Kanyu Wang

Review of Regina Kanyu Wang, “The Winter Garden”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Alternate universes form the backdrop of this story, with Ms. Wang’s life and choices the primary plot. And what a plot it is. Everything is a choice – the choice to make no choices is also a choice, and one that Ms. Wang ends up taking very often. Not by choice.

It would be repetitive if not for the fact that it was skillfully executed. From coasting through the easy decisions, to choosing the seemingly easy way of checking out an alternate reality where she has an ostensibly better life, she very rarely takes a stand for herself. But not every reality of herself is the same. In another world, she takes decisions more strongly and promptly. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “It is a Pleasure to Receive You” by Ziggy Schutz

Review of Ziggy Schutz, “It is a Pleasure to Receive You”, Clarkesworld Issue 180, September (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A vivid story full of hauntingly beautiful prose, language and thought processes.

Of hope and loneliness, how they overlap, and what a difference perspective makes. Of finding someone who understands you, and how genuine affection can change so, so much.

An tale set in the vast expanses of space, but more about exploring yourself. Shining a light on the parts of you that you keep hidden away. Having the courage to break the rules sometimes. Making a difference.

A story about the infinite universe, and acknowledging that sometimes it did feel like all of it revolved around a few people or a few moments. And that can be good. Simply lovely.

REVIEW: “The Song of Leviathan” by Victor Pseftakis

Review of Victor Pseftakis, “The Song of Leviathan” Cossmass Infinities 5 (2021): 84-94 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a delightfully bizarre story, full of flying Bureaucroaks and semi-sentient aqueducts, and of course the titular Leviathan who lives beneath the bridge and is either killer or saviour. There is a strong emotional tension in the story of the narrator and his friends, and the description of how the city first woke up and came alive is vivid and arresting.

REVIEW: “Top Ten Demons to Kill Before the World Ends” by dave ring

Review of dave ring, “Top Ten Demons to Kill Before the World Ends,” Cossmass Infinities 5 (2021): — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

It’s the end of the world and demons will be demons, and demon-slayers will be demon-slayers… Exactly what the title says it is, full of hilarious footnotes, I loved this story of a sisterhood of demonkillers who “just happen to mostly be messy sapphics”.

REVIEW: “The Prince & the Raven” by Rebecca Burton

Review of Rebecca Burton, “The Prince & the Raven,” Luna Station Quarterly 48 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I would have liked this fairy tale-esque story better if it hadn’t taken all the frustrating bits of fairy tales instead of the good ones: The woman who sees a prince from the distance and falls hopelessly in love; the prince who has to marry or lose his lands, but cannot find a woman interesting enough. I love fairy tales, both traditional and modern, but cis-normative patriarchy-enforcing ones always end up disappointing me. This one tried to subvert those stereotypes, in the end, but not soon enough for it to be convincing.

But there was one very beautiful line in it, when the Moon tells the Raven-Maid: “Don’t lose your self as well as your heart.”

Good advice.