REVIEW: “Dancing with Ereshkigal” by Sameem Siddiqui

Review of Sameem Siddiqui, “Dancing with Ereshkigal”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A poignant story that goes all over our solar system and spans goddesses, non-binary characters, low-gravity art forms, and dance. Our protagonist narrates the story as if they are speaking to Pyn, their spouse. The narrator has created, or rather been swept into, a different sort of life since they met Pyn. As we learn more about them, both individually as well as as a couple, we see things are different from what the narrator had initially believed. A moment of clarity reshapes much, so that the dance of the goddess makes more sense.

A lovely story, and I don’t say this just because I already have a weakness for goddesses in fiction.

REVIEW: “The Force Exerted on the Mass of a Body” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “The Force Exerted on the Mass of a Body”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fun yet poignant read about Sifan, and her initial struggles with the much stronger gravitational field of her new short-term home. She’s an inventor, there to help advance space travel. But, it turns out space might be a sentient being. The discoveries are as difficult to shoulder as the exoskeleton she must wear to stay upright. How she deals with the situation and the new revelations make up the bulk of the story. A very interesting approach to space travel for sure.

REVIEW: “Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse” by Rachel Swirsky

Review of Rachel Swirsky, “Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse”, Uncanny Magazine Issue 41 (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Isabel Hinchliff.

In “Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse,” an ingenuous and lipstick-obsessed narrator details the whimsical contents of their purse in list format, guiding the reader through their recent interactions with these items. As the story continues, a web of connections grows between each seemingly discrete item, and, improbably and almost unbelievably, the narrator’s strange assumptions about the contents of their purse seem to be confirmed by members of the outside world. It’s a short and easily-digestible story, and it has some humorous twists and turns; it definitely made me smile!

Personally, when I pick up an issue of Uncanny, this is exactly the type of story I expect to find, layered between pages of the unexpected. It slowly adds speculative twists to ubiquitous, mundane aspects of daily existence until the reader ends up in a highly improbable world that, nevertheless, appears perfectly reasonable. An homage to the enigmatic nature of the random collection of items in our purses, it’s delightful, it’s surprising, and it wraps itself up neatly in a nice little bow. While not particularly flashy or action-packed, this story is simply good fun and great imaginative exercise.

REVIEW: “Five-Star Review” by Beth McMillan

Review of Beth McMillan, “Five-Star Review”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June (2021): 121–124 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

When his car breaks down, the driver of an “Uber”-like service is worried that his passenger will leave him a bad review, effectively ruining his career.

It seems to be somewhat of a theme in this issue, but this was another very short piece full of info-dumping, much of it unnecessary or awkwardly conveyed. However, the final interaction between the protagonist and his passenger was very poignant and sent the story off on a good note. This dystopia the characters live in is a bit too over-the-top (although not entirely unrealistic), nevertheless it’s nice to see these two characters find a connection in such a selfish and judgmental world.

REVIEW: “Best-Laid Plans” by David D. Levine

Review of David D. Levine, “Best-Laid Plans”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fun, light story about genetically modified mice at a research station. In space. The station is hit by a micrometeoroid, and Dr. Yan, the researcher, attempts to save the day, and the space station from evacuation. I especially liked the elves – a tantalizing bit I would love to know more about. Overall, this was an exciting, fast paced story, and I’d certainly keep an eye out for more of this author’s work.

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: “In-Flight Damage” by Sara Kate Ellis

Review of Sara Kate Ellis, “In-Flight Damage”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June(2021): 54–59 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Astrid is planning on having a “genetically corrected” child with her wife, but before she goes through with the procedure, she decides to pay a visit to her adventurous father in the seceded territory of Texas.

The story’s premise is another spin on the ideas of the film “GATTACA,” although it focuses more on relationship of the protagonist with her past (after all, the “faults” on her DNA are not necessarily inherited but the result of trauma). The plot is competently handled, allowing the connection between Astrid and her father to shine through. The story’s background – involving the secession of Texas which leads to the state’s demise – suffers from a lack of plausibility that is typical of someone who doesn’t really understand Texas. Nevertheless, the setting is mostly intended as a foil to explain the protagonists trauma, and it works well enough for that purpose.

Overall, this is an excellent story, one of this issue’s best.

REVIEW: “Small Turn of the Ladder” by Kelly Lagor

Review of Kelly Lagor, “Small Turn of the Ladder”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June(2021): 51–53 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

A woman is suffering from an autoimmune disease that is likely to claim her life. She contemplates about her death on a short walk with her best friend.

Lagor’s story can hardly be considered speculative, and the few vaguely speculative elements about it seem forced into the narrative. Even as a meditative existentialist tale about death, the story has little to offer outside the usual cliches – although I found the protagonist’s relationship with her best friend touching. The premise is one that could have certainly benefited from a longer story.

REVIEW: “A Funnel of Time” by Kris Faatz

Review of Kris Faatz, “A Funnel of Time”, Luna Station Quarterly 24 (2015): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Attempted suicide.

This story hops between 2005 and 1934, and the experiences of two women, otherwise entirely unconnected from each other, each undergoing electro-convulsive therapy to fix them, to make them forget. One woman is schizophrenic; the other, bi-polar. At least, that’s what the husband or the brother says, the one who committed them in the first place. Whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter, though; what matters is that somehow these two women manage to find each other and support each other, and help each other survive the abuse: “Through a funnel of time, two women hold each other up.”

This was not a typical LSQ story, and the use of real-world people in it (see note at the end of the story) was a bit off-putting for me; but I really liked the premise of women supporting women across time.

REVIEW: “A Test of Trouble” by Catherine George

Review of Catherine George, “A Test of Trouble”, Luna Station Quarterly 45 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

For anyone woman who has lived through parenting a newborn with an unsupportive partner, or seen a friend live through the same: This will be a hard story to read. Bree’s baby Pippa is 9 weeks old, and her entire world has changed, except for perhaps the one thing that should — she is still expected to be the smart, funny, put-together, beautiful wife who gets supper on the table every day. She’s become a mother — but Max certainly hasn’t yet become a father! (The fact that Max was Bree’s professor when they first started going out certainly doesn’t make him any more sympathetic!) In a sense, this is a horror story, one that I read the whole time hoping that Bree would find a way to get out, to escape, to get Max out of her life. I’m not sure if that’s the angle George was going for, but if it was, she nailed it. This was a deeply unsettling, vaguely disturbing story.