REVIEW: “Surgical Strike” by Louis Evans

Review of Louis Evans, “Surgical Strike,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 20-28 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Sexually explicit material.

This story was prefaced by one of the most intriguing content notes that I’ve ever come across. [It does not highlight the same issue I have highlighted in my content note.] It identifies the key piece of fantasy that the story relies on, and explicitly says that such a fantasy should not be engaged with. The paradox is that we cannot help but engage with the fantasy while we are reading it.

There are some stories that I come away from reading thinking, “of all the stories that could have been told, why this one?” I was worried that I would have the same reaction here: Given the problematic fantasy upon which it is premised, why tell this story, instead of the innumerable other stories that could be told instead?

Sadly, I think I was right to be worried. By the time I reached the end, all I could think of was the other stories I could have read instead. There was a lack of finesse that made the entire story feel a bit clumsy; and definitely not for me.

REVIEW: “Ste·nog·ra·phy” by Mikaela Kesigner

Review of Mikaela Kesigner, “Ste·nog·ra·phy,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 60 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This poem illustrated the fact that Radon Journal isn’t all about spec fic (or spec poetry) — there’s nothing at all speculative about this critique on the justice system, it’s unfortunately rather prosaically ordinary. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t hit me as strongly as some of the other poems in the issue; it’s just a bit too depressing without any imaginative relief.

REVIEW: “When I’m Thirty I Receive a Box Full of Your Steel Bones” by Avra Margariti

Review of Avra Margariti, “When I’m Thirty I Receive a Box Full of Your Steel Bones,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 54 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The title is itself almost a flash fic story, and it sets up a lot of pressure on the rest of the poem to rise to the occasion. We don’t find out who “you” is until the end of the first stanza, and the reveal makes sense of the title. I almost think the poem would’ve been stronger ending there; the second stanza felt a little unnecessary, to me.

(First published in Asimov’s Science Fiction

REVIEW: “Splendor” by Emmie Christie

Review of Emmie Christie, “Splendor,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 62 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I’d never considered the question of what our galaxy would be like if not only our human society but also the stars were trapped under the confines of late-stage capitalism, until I read this poem. I liked the way it made me question; but I found the resolution in the final stanza unsatisfying, because it’s not a solution that can be translated into humanity. Sometimes, knowing your worth isn’t enough to be able to do anything about it.

REVIEW: “Under the Satin Gunmetal Sky” by Shawn Goodman

Review of Shawn Goodman, “Under the Satin Gunmetal Sky,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 40-45 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Schneider is a detective on the case of a double murder with a twist — two synths who’ve had their arms removed. (Another twist: he’s a synth himself.) Apparently, the best way to solve a complicated case, if you’re a synth detective, is to get high and fight it out at a fight club.

At least, that’s what I got out of Goodman’s story, and all I got. It was one of those weird stories where it feels like it all hangs together while you read it, but at the end you realise none of it made any sense.

REVIEW: “The Flyswatter” by Nick Greenleaf

Review of Nick Greenleaf, “The Flyswatter,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 34-39 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Tomo and Tommy fix electronics, but it’s not enough to make a living out of, so occasionally Tomo brings back other jobs for them. It’s a dangerous mission, involving Tomo hooking herself into a neural interface to try to hack her way in through a back door, but will bring in a lot of money.

There’s a fine line between explaining too much and explaining too little, but unfortunately this story fell on the latter side for me. I was never quite sure what Tomo was targetting — a person or a corporation? And the technicians who showed up at the end, their connection to the whole process also wasn’t clear to me. A lot of potential in this story, just not quite realised.

REVIEW: “Superluminal” by Kevin Helock

Review of Kevin Helock, “Superluminal,” Radon Journal 3 (January 2023): 29-33 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The best part about science fiction is that you can ignore science when needed in favor of fiction; on the other hand, if you want to write science fiction you can’t ignore too much science. With his story of faster-than-light travel and a 3000-strong colony on Mars, Helock has managed to hit a good balance between giving up science, without feeling any needed to explain how, and yet keeping the bones of the narrative credible.*

(*Other than the fact that anyone in so far distant a future would consider Elon Musk one of the “Great Men” of history. But Maxim seems the sort of person who would idolize Musk.)