REVIEW: “Ceres 7” by Lorraine Alden

Review of Lorraine Alden, “Ceres 7”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2023): 118–123 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

This review may contain spoilers.

Ceres 7 is on its way to the planet Esperance with a mission to preserve the human race after Earth has presumably suffered nuclear Armageddon. Ruth and Jill, the youngest members of the all-female crew, are uncertain about their chances to survive the whole trip. With the cryogenic module half broken, only some of the members are destined to survive.

Alden’s story reminded me of Tom Godwin’s “The cold equation,” presenting yet another variation on the classic unwinnable scenario in science fiction (albeit far more plausible than Godwin’s version). I appreciated the tight economy of the prose, revealing just enough about the story’s background without drowning it in exposition. The final twist is genuinely surprising, but somewhat Deus-ex-machina for the protagonist. All in all, a great story.

REVIEW: “Breath of the Dragon King” by Allison King

Review of Allison King, “Breath of the Dragon King,” Fantasy Magazine 72 (October 2021): 9-10 — Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Drea King’s life began in tragedy, when she was born in the wrong year in a culture that values dragons far beyond rabbits. But the bigger tragedy is the life of an immigrant child, “scared to be separated from their old country and to be freaks in their new one” (p. 10). Drea turns her own personal tragedy into a way of helping all the other Dragons of ’88 in this lovely, hopefully little story.

REVIEW: “End of the World, Beginning of Everything” by Kiersten Gonzalez

Review of Kiersten Gonzalez, “End of the World, Beginning of Everything,” Luna Station Quarterly 52 (2022): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Sudden death.

After the narrator’s husband leaves her, she takes advantage of the opportunity to move to California and try to become an actress. Instead, she ends up in Colorado, landing a job as a ghost tour guide. There are many ways you might think the story would go, from this premise — but I can guarantee you that none of them are what happens! This was a novel story told in a fresh, distinctive voice. Good stuff!

REVIEW: “Just One Step and Then the Next” by E. N. Díaz

Review of E. N. Díaz, “Just One Step and Then the Next”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A story about quiet resilience. Sometimes you have no choice but to take those small steps of courage. Sometimes the fear is so much, that a little more unfairness can push you into fearlessness. That’s what happened to Doña Chuy.

Dictatorial setups never work long term – you simply can’t win people over with a militaristic approach. This story takes us to the heart of a regular person’s life. We get to see, up close, Doña Chuy’s strength, because what can you be in such situations if not strong?

What else do you possess? A thought-provoking story.

REVIEW: “Other Stories” by Wang Yuan

Review of Wang Yuan, “Other Stories”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fascinating novelette about fiction and time travel and how it comes together in lovely, strange ways. This is a story I read twice, simply because it had so much depth that I had to go back. After the first read, things are revealed, and I immediately started it again, knowing the plot and hence being able to connect the dots better, seeing phrases in a new light.

You can tell that this was quite intricately written, and it’s one of those stories you can keep revisiting. Highly recommend.

REVIEW: “Too Little, Too Little, Too Much” by John Wiswell

Review of John Wiswell, “Too Little, Too Little, Too Much,” Cossmass Infinities 8 (2022): 37-44 — Purchase online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Towards the end of the review.

This story made me wary from its opening lines, concerned that I was going to get something uncomfortable or horrific or depressing about children and the families that fail them.

Bad news: I was right to have been worried. Avoid this story if you don’t want to read about abuse (sexual, mental, physical, of children, of animals…).

I almost couldn’t finish it. I think I’m glad I did, that it was worth sticking it out to the end.

REVIEW: “You Are Born Exploding” by Rich Larson

Review of Rich Larson, “You Are Born Exploding”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Set in an indeterminate time in the future, this story focuses on the dichotomy of the life of the narrator versus the general public. She is rich and can afford security and expensive inoculations. Much of the general population cannot, and some become Shamblers.

She is intrigued by them, especially the ones who voluntarily become Shamblers, and leave the land to dive into the sea. Nobody knows where they go, but she is disillusioned with her existing life and doesn’t seem to mind the unknown. Especially since her life on land isn’t shaping up to be too great.

I loved the beautiful prose, and the pacing. It is a novelette, so a bit longer than your usual short story, but it never drags and is absolutely worth the read. The world-building and hints of how the world functions has so much depth that I’m sure the author has even more detail in his notes than we see in the story. The character development is strong, and the emotional resonance is powerful and heartbreaking. One of my favorite stories of the year!

REVIEW: “Vegvísir” by David Goodman

Review of David Goodman, “Vegvísir”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

This story is set on a Mars that has been inhabited for generations now. There are very few Earthborn left – many of the humans here are locals, born and raised on Mars. An interesting concept to begin with, and this is just the background!

Loved the prose here. The author does a great job of creating atmosphere, be it the wilds and winds of Mars, or of the Iceland of Gunnar’s family history. A place his grandmother was from. She may have migrated to Mars, but she still loves her skyr and her mythology. Many of the inhabitants, like Gunnar, can trace their origin to Iceland. And with people and their personalities, there also comes a bit of history, story, and old magic.

REVIEW: “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep” by Meghan Feldman

Review of Meghan Feldman, “Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Rana is just trying to stay safe, running away from EdiTech and her own demons. But she cannot run too far from either of those things, as they’re embedded deeply within her psyche – both EdiTech and her personal feelings intertwined with and coming back to her sister and what she had to face.

Rana is strong but doesn’t know which way to turn, and it seems like she might be one of those people who “have greatness thrust upon them” – but also power in this case. However, when it really comes down to it, it’s her choice to make. Just as mercy and strength were her own choices to make, even when she could easily have been a less moral person. And that makes all the difference.

REVIEW: “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “The Cold Calculations”, Clarkesworld Issue 183, December (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

I don’t know where to begin with this story. So beautiful, so heartbreaking, so powerful. I don’t think any review can do justice. Some parts made me emotional, and near the conclusion I had goosebumps the entire time.

It’s about hopefulness in the midst of adversity and difficulty. But hope is not enough – there must be action, and action can start with just one person. Nobody is too small to make a difference. The titular cold calculations that are ever-present in the world, from years past to the present day, where technical difficulties and paperwork sometimes overlook the fact that each number is an actual, living person. And a person is not an expendable resource.