REVIEW: “Pandora’s Capsule” by Shaliz Bazldjoo

Review of Shaliz Bazldjoo, “Pandora’s Castle” Radon Journal 2 (2022): 48-55 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There is so much tension and backstory and history in this story, right from the very start. Bazldjoo strikes an excellent balance for the reader between the enjoyable uncertainty about what’s going on and how everything fits in, and frustration about the exact same thing. I immediately want to know more about the narrator, who are they, why is their life like this. A great read.

REVIEW: “Misrule” by Fiona Moore

Review of Fiona Moore, “Misrule,” Luna Station Quarterly 51 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Misrule is a multifaceted entity in this story — both the time of year when the Lord of Misrule holds court, but also the court itself, and the chaos that results from it. When Mary faces Misrule, it’s in the form of the wanton destruction of her mother’s livelihood, and it’s an enemy that she cannot fight. For as the Vicar says, “There’s always Misrule. It’s a way of letting go of the pain of the other fifty weeks of the year.”

This was a timely and thought-provoking story. Reading it, I couldn’t help but think of the recent protests in the UK, arising out of the myriad crises facing the ordinary people. They’re protests now, but how many tomorrows will it be before they are riots? Before we have our own form of Misrule? Maybe the Vicar is right: set aside twelve days each year for destruction, and maybe we can survive the rest of the year. Or maybe Mary is right, and rather than trying to endure it we must undo the very foundations on which Misrule is built. I’m not sure I’m convinced Mary’s solution is one that can be applied more generally, but it was certainly interesting to read it play out.

REVIEW: “Felt” by Denise Khng

Review of Denise Khng, “Felt,” Luna Station Quarterly 51 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This was a beautiful love elegy — slow paced but never dragging or over written, continually building emotions in layers. Nothing much happened, it mostly meandered from one place to another, but the strength and depth of feeling evoked something visceral in me. And that was before everything turned sad.

It was also very long, and yet, it seemed to be simultaneously exactly the right length. A very well put together piece.

REVIEW: “The Birth of a Child” by Joyce Chng

Review of Joyce Chng, “The Birth of a Child,” Luna Station Quarterly 19 (2014): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

What a beautiful pearl of a story, with so many wonderful threads. For one, it captures beautifully all the ambivalence that can surround childbirth, how it can be a combination of the most beautiful thing ever and the most cold, sterile, and heartless thing, too. For another, it mixes traditional fairy tale and romance tropes with modern concerns of immigration, alienation, foreigness, and cultural appropriation, creating a perfect blend of fantasy and Vietnamese culture. I really loved this, absolutely stellar.

REVIEW: “Love Like Chocolate” by Risa Wolf

Review of Risa Wolf, “The Long Way Home” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 115-122 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Oh, this was a heartbreaker! I could feel it from the very opening scene, when we meet Kari and Sonora (and their new puppy!) and find out just how much they love each other — and also that something is not right. The dramatic tension as we find out what that something is, over the course of the story, is perfectly pitched and left me shattered at the ending.

REVIEW: “Seraph in Ruins” by Mere Rain

Review of Mere Rain, “Seraph in Ruins” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 98-109 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Seraph is a monster, and a loaner; whatever the vampires are hunting isn’t her problem. It’s only boredom, boredom that sees her rescue the woman and ensure she makes her way safely out of the zone that has “more monsters than spare parts” (p. 100). Of course, that’s what Seraph tells herself: we, the reader, know it is far more than that.

There’s nothing more enjoyable than smugly watching two characters convince themselves they are not falling for each other until they give up. This story provides all that enjoyment and more, that I read with a smile that just kept getting bigger and bigger.

REVIEW: “Home Bound” by Melanie Bell

Review of Melanie Bell, “Home Bound” Cossmass Infinities 9 (2022): 54-61 — Read or purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death.

As someone who gave up a life in the US for a life in Europe — and, ultimately, England — I found a lot to sympathise with Beth, the heroine, in this story, who inherits her great-grandmother’s house and makes the leap across the ocean. I additionally sympathised with the basic premise of the story, that one’s soul can and up becoming bound up with the house that they live in, although in Beth’s case, this is literal: Her great-grandmother cannot die until she passes the house on to someone who shares her blood.

It did feel, a bit, though, like it was a story written by someone who has read about England, but hasn’t lived here. The NHS is slowly being dismantled and destroyed (although: <sarcams>Maybe a thriving NHS is the fantasy element of the story</sarcasm>), she’s more likely to be drinking squash than juice, McDonald’s is unlikely to be the main source of cheap coffees…) On the flip side, it’s been long enough since the start of Covid-19 that it feels wrong when stories don’t acknowledge it, and right when they do, as this one does.

REVIEW: “Ghosts in My Lungs” by Madeleine Sardina

Review of Madeleine Sardina, “Ghosts in My Lungs,” Luna Station Quarterly 50 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I’m not sure if the titular ghosts were intended to be a metaphor for disease — they certainly can be read that way, but it’s not required — or if they’re just a fun creepy thing to imagine and write a story about, but either way, they definitely made for a fun creepy thing to read a story about, especially entangled in an absolutely glorious love story. A real treat!