REVIEW: “The Answer Was Snails” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “The Answer Was Snails”, Clarkesworld Issue 181, October (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

The protagonist, Robin, is trapped in a terrarium by an alien. A mish-mash of creatures who have no business being placed together, but they are. And that’s why every day is a struggle for Robin.

What keeps them going is knowing their partner Annie is nearby, unfortunately trapped in an adjacent terrarium.

It’s difficult for both of them, but they decide to try to be together, if they can’t be free. There’s a lot at stake and they stay strong and hopeful throughout.

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: “A Moral Majority” by Nikoline Kaiser

Review of Nikoline Kaiser, “A Moral Majority”, Luna Station Quarterly 46 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a very different sort of love story than the one in “Forestborn” (read the review), but every bit as lovely, and the way it was underpinned by the collective will, of the entire town of Goldville, to do the right thing in support of Angela and Marigold in their time of need was something quite special. If Kaiser weaves this strength of moral virtue into the rest of her writing, then I want to read more of it.

REVIEW: “A Home for Mrs. Biswas” by Amal Singh

Review of Amal Singh, “A Home for Mrs. Biswas”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Our protagonists travel between worlds, Earth and Mars and back again. It was written by an Indian author, and being Indian myself, I absolutely loved the representation, not least because this was a beautiful story.There are Hindi words and references scattered throughout, and it made me inordinately happy.

Coming back to the story, it was thoughtful and quiet with restrained emotion. Past lives, memories and the draw of love across generations, millennia and planets make this a heartwarming story of love and hope.

REVIEW: “Vó Úrsula’s Magical Shop for Soul-Aches” by Victoria V.

Review of Victoria V., “Vó Úrsula’s Magical Shop for Soul-Aches”, Luna Station Quarterly 43 (2020): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This issue of LSQ is full of good titles — intriguing ones that draw me in and seem to tell almost as much of a story as the story itself — and this is another one of them.

The titular shop is the backdrop for the lives of cousins Benjamin and Berenice dos Santos — students at the local university involved in all the usual student activities, geometry, activism, surreptitious publication in the free press. The story is a mixture of otherworldly-fantasy (the world they live in could be any world, not ours) and descriptions (such as “The government had promised to fight crime, but much of the violence and fear that haunted the cities came from the so-called law enforcement, as well.”) that feel very much like pointed comments on our own current society.

And I’m also a sucker for the first shy blushes of a queer romance, so thumbs up from me for this story! I would totally read a longer/novel-length story based on these characters.

REVIEW: “The Plover’s Egg” by Allison Epstein

Review of Allison Epstein, “The Plover’s Egg”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Marya ran away from home to escape her father’s disapproval of her illicit love affair with Sonya, and now works in the count’s castle. When Aleksander the mariner turns up, unexpected, with a mysterious woman that he’s rescued from beneath the ice, Marya moves from laundrymaid to nursemaid to the quiet, icy Elizaveta. Everything from there turns messy and beautiful and sad and dark.

This was such a lovely, delicate story. It’s one part fairy-tale, one part Slavic folk-tale, and one part all its own story. I really enjoyed it.

REVIEW: “Rib of Man” by Geonn Cannon

Review of Geonn Cannon, “Rib of Man”, in Catherine Lundoff, ed., Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) (Queen of Swords Press, 2018): 90-101 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Henriette Talmadge captains the Rib of Man, a former slave trader ship that she captured and made her own. It’s a suitable name for a ship that is captained by a woman and whose crew contains many other women. On the one hand, the rib of man from which woman was created (according to one story, at least), is

curved and sharp, like a sword. A man’s rib is a weapon, crafted while he lay naked and exposed…The women standing before you are descendants of that brutal moment. We are weapons who have been taught we are weak, fragile, helpless. The weaker sex (p. 93)

But on the other hand,

ribs are also protection: a shield that is always with you, protecting your most vital organ, your heart (p. 100)

Henriette Talmadge captains her ship as both a weapon and a shield. While some pirates prefer to ransack for treasure, she’s happy to capture slave ships and free the slaves, for no profit of her own. But sometimes profit comes in unexpected quarters, as happens when the Rib of Man encounters the Rebecca and comes away with a new navigator. Genevalisse knows not only how to pilot the ship safely through treacherous waters, but she also know navigate the careful passageways into Henriette’s heart.

REVIEW: “Serpent’s Tail” by Mharie West

Review of Mharie West, “Serpent’s Tale”, in Catherine Lundoff, ed., Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) (Queen of Swords Press, 2018): 52-64 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Looking for a story about polyamorous Viking pirates with strong familial bonds and a disabled MC? Look no further, have I got the story for you!!

I loved this story; from the description given above, you might thinking cynically to yourself “looks like someone was playing ‘diversity bingo'”, but you would be totally wrong to do so. Yes, the cast of characters is more diverse than in your usual pirate story, but each of the characters is so beautifully crafted, and their interactions with each other are so real. Each facet is integral to the story, and yet none of these aspects (except perhaps Thorgest and Makarios’s relationship being treated as illicit) is a “plot point”. Authors take note: This is how you do diversity well. If this story is representative of West’s other writing, then I’m definitely going to have to find more stories by her.