REVIEW: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 241-256 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: blood, injury, masochism, kinkshaming, misgendering, warfare, mention of slavery.

Take the content note seriously: We are dropped immediately into the midst of blood and destruction when an unexpected visitor arrives on the narrator’s doorstep, begging their assistance.

There are so many aspects of this story that I could highlight, but I will pick out just one, and that is how intensely physical it is, deeply, gut-wrenchingly, in a way that is entire unerotic and unsexual. It hit me at a very visceral level, touched me in a way that no other story in this volume did — as much as I enjoyed all of them — and I have a hard time articulating just how good this story is — one of the best I’ve read this year — in the context of a review. My words fail. I loved it.

(First published in Capricious 2015).

REVIEW: “The Visible Frontier” by Grace Seybold

Review of Grace Seybold, “The Visible Frontier”, Clarkesworld Issue 154, July (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A beautifully written story, with poignant emotions, a wonderful narrative, and wondrous descriptions. There’s a lot of focus on world-building, and I’d love to read more stories in the universe. When the story starts, you’ll assume a certain timeline and setting, but there’s a Reveal in store. When you realize how different things are from what you expected, it adds another layer of depth to this story.

Our protagonist, Inlesh, is a curious and intelligent young man, and we follow his journey of inquisitiveness throughout the story. Which, honestly, is what makes this story so poignant.

Richly woven in terms of both storytelling and world building.

REVIEW: “Toward the Luminous Towers” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Toward the Luminous Towers” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 221-233 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Warfare, combat, drug use, death, murder, injury, amputation, ableism, dehumanization, suicide.

Sometimes, reading a story, I can’t help but think what a mystery the human mind is, that it can come up with such things. Takács takes the reader into a pretty dark place in this story — all the content warnings above are necessary in this one, and even for someone who does not particularly struggle with any of these topics, I found this an unsettling and distressing story.

(Originally published in Clarkesworld #120, 2016).

REVIEW: “To Rebalance the Body” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “To Rebalance the Body” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 199-212 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I was a bit surprised that this story didn’t come with a content note, so I’ll add one of my own — if body-modification or vampirism isn’t your thing, avoid this story.

Ordinary vampires are generally neither my thing nor not my thing, but Master Viiren in this story is no ordinary vampire. With all their usual skill, Takács takes a character type and turns it into something on the border between creepy and unsettling. Master Viiren has an illness for which they take medicine, a medicine which they receive from vesicles on the skin of their servant, Biruyan. There is a deep physical intimacy between the two, and the narrators obsequiousness to their master makes it almost uncomfortable to witness.

What was not so uncomfortable, for me at least, was the direct way in which both Biruyan and Master Viiren confront the problematic consequences of adherence to a gender binary and a sex binary. While issues of gender and sex are threaded throughout the stories in this volume, only a few of the stories explicitly revolve around the topic, and its strongest in this one. It’s one of the thins that I’ve loved about this collection as a whole: How much gender matters, but how much also it doesn’t have to be central, but (on the third hand) how much it also can be the central guiding force of a story, and also how gender and sex are intertwined.

(First published in Nerve Endings, ed. T. Hill-Meyer, 2017).

REVIEW: “A Report of One’s Honorable Death” by Virginia M. Mohlere

Review of Virginia M. Mohlere, “A Report of One’s Honorable Death”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This makes 2/2 of Mohlere’s stories that I absolutely adored. She has such skill in picking out setting, character, and action with fine precise sentences, no unnecessary words, and constructed to drive straight into your emotional core. In this one, one emotion that kept being tapped was laughter — so many lines that caused me to burst out with it! For example:

“What a curious thing,” the goblin said. “Why would anyone create such an object and then use it only to be rude?”

But it was laughter tempered with the feeling that only comes with the satisfaction of a deep longing.

I can’t wait till I get to read more of her work.

REVIEW: “The Artist” by Koji A. Dae.

Review of Koji A. Dae, “The Artist”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

All too often, art has no — or not enough — place in science, both in science fiction and science fact. In Dae’s SF story, the titular artist plays a central role: Karla Becker is the one who had the important breakthrough in crystallography, she’s the one that people know that value. But when she cannot replicate her breakthrough of two years ago, her single-minded experiments on the very same crystals end up costing her job. What role, then, can the artist play?

The story started off feeling like it was going to be rather depressing and hopeless, but it did not end that way. I loved the feeling of hope, that art, and life, is worth fighting for, that pervading the ending.

REVIEW: “Tonghai” by Linda H. Codega

Review of Linda H. Codega, “Tonghai”, Luna Station Quarterly 39 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Jian is sailing west down the Tonghai river, “toward the asterism her ancestors called Tiger King”, in search of fresh water. It’s been fifty-eight days since she’s seen another person, and four hundred and eighty-six since she last saw a tellerite.

This was a quiet, reflective story of living in the aftermath of the worst parts of climate change. At times it was beautiful — phrases like “picking up the afterbirth of a hundred civilizations” really resonated with me — and at other times it was cold — not yet hopeless, but serving to remind the reader that the world Jian lives in could be our own in the future. Parts of it touched upon myth, and other parts were calmly pragmatic. I really enjoyed this one!