REVIEW: “Embracing the Movement” by Cristina Jurado

Review of Cristina Jurado, “Embracing the Movement”, Clarkesworld Issue 177, June (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fantastical tale of a strange sort of first contact. Things don’t go the way you may anticipate. There’s delicious buildup about existence in outer space and the different kinds of lives people live. It also features a very creepy payoff.

Different sorts of living spaces, structures and communication types exist in our universe. We have barely begun to understand this universe, and stories like this throw that fact into sharp relief.

A subtle queasiness exists throughout the story. If you enjoy feeling creeped out, this one will be right up your alley.

REVIEW: “Warlord” by Steve DuBois

Review of Steve DuBois, “Warlord,” Flash Fiction Online 87 (2021): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Cockroaches.

Ever since childhood, Kobi has been attended by a horde of bloodthirsty, talking cockroaches. Now, the presence of cockroaches isn’t generally something that will get me all het up for a story, but I’m not so creeped out by them as to stop reading. I read “Warlord” in a state of mixed horror and amusement — on the one hand, cockroaches, on the other hand, as far as Kobi’s concerned, they’re Cinderella’s mice. Which is hilarious. To sum it up: This story is quite the ride.

REVIEW: “Your Brother’s Touchstone” by Isabel Lee

Review of Isabel Lee, “Your Brother’s Touchestone,” Luna Station Quarterly 47 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

It’s never a good sign when I start reading a story going “ugh, 2nd person POV. I hope it’s not too awful…” While it was by no means awful — LSQ doesn’t publish awful stories! — it was not, in my opinion, a story that was improved by the use of the 2nd person POV. I would have loved to have read a version of this story told in a more traditional format. Because the basic premise — Hana’s little brother Phillip has a tendency to disappear, literally, leaving her to pick up the pieces — was cool, and there were some very sweet and touching moments in it, and a twist near the end that I didn’t expect.

So, if you’re not like me and don’t mind 2nd person POV stories, definitely read this: I think you’ll like it.

REVIEW: “The Keeper” by Susan E. Rogers

Review of Susan E. Rogers, “The Keeper”, Luna Station Quarterly 47 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Death.

This was a lovely little story about the passing down of collective memory from one generation to the next — every family needs to have someone who is the Keeper of their memories. There was very little truly speculative about the story, but I didn’t mind; sometimes it’s okay to just have a good yarn, without overburdening it with fantastical elements.

REVIEW: “The Shroud for the Mourners” by Yukimi Ogawa

Review of Yukimi Ogawa, “The Shroud for the Mourners”, Clarkesworld Issue 177, June (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Beautifully written, and set in a hauntingly different world. I enjoyed the glimpses into the different kinds of people there, both human and Android.

Two craftspeople work at a pattern atelier – helping patterned people deal with anomalies in their intricate skin patterns. They get involved in a sort of medical mystery. The source turns out to be unexpected and sentimental.

Another tale that follows this issue’s theme (based on my personal inference) of identity and the different ways it can manifest.

The whole situation occurs due to differences in how your identity decides how exactly things pan out. A thoughtful tale that will stay with you.

REVIEW: “Relapse” by Phoenix Roberts

Review of Phoenix Roberts, “Relapse”, Luna Station Quarterly 47 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Content note: Eating disorders.

Katherine is recovering from an eating disorder, and is making a table. The spectre of her ED haunts the earlier part of the story, so that it takes awhile to piece together the offered clues to see that that’s what happened to her. After that, it becomes quite a frank account: I cannot say how accurate because I do not have the experience, but the way her recovery shapes her life smacks of authenticity.

It’s hard to isolate and explain the speculative — almost horror — element in the story, and how it weaves through the more mundane details, so I won’t try; it is best understood by experiencing it, by reading the story yourself.

REVIEW: “Our Fate, Told in Photons” by K.W. Colyard

Review of K.W. Colyard, “Our Fate, Told in Photons”, Clarkesworld Issue 177, June (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A slow start and a very satisfying end. A short story that encompasses space travel, prophecy, stars, family, love, and memory.

Sisters, Callisto and Pallas, bound together for life. Would they still be, if not for a prophecy? Would their actions be the same, if not for the prophecy? Are prophecies self-fulfilling as a rule?

Speculative in a different sort of way, and tying in with the theme of identity that (I feel) features in all the stories in this issue of Clarkesworld.

REVIEW: “Look to the Future” by Louise Hughes

Review of Louise Hughes, “Look to the Future”, Luna Station Quarterly 47 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love the premise of this story: In a world where ordinarily everyone can see the future, the narrator is one of those who can’t. The entire shape of people’s lives is different on such a premise, and the distress and bafflement at the narrator’s plight is genuine and believable: How can you plan for your future if you cannot see it? “Everyone worried. They narrowed their brows and clenched their teeth and fretted that I was making a Terrible Decision that would Ruin My Life Forever.”

What can you possible decide to do about your future when you cannot see it? Why, study history! And that decision is when the real magic in this story begins.

This story hit the perfect balance of making it all about the characters and their own world and story but leaving enough space within it to “read” the real world into it, almost allegorically. Big thumbs up from me.

REVIEW: “Immortal Coil” by Ellen Kushner

Review of Ellen Kushner, “Immortal Coil”, Uncanny Magazine Issue 41 (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Isabel Hinchliff.

At 44 years old, William (Will) Shakespeare begins to see his long-dead friend Christopher (Kit) Marlowe in the streets of London. Kit leads patient, unflappable Will on a merry chase full of word games before finally revealing the mechanism behind his mysterious ‘resurrection’. Of course, Marlowe (author of Doctor Faustus) lives because he made a Faustian bargain, and now Shakespeare must choose whether to make the same sacrifice in order to receive the same reward.

Among a truly dizzying collection of references to both Shakespeare and Marlowe’s works, “Immortal Coil” seeks to ask and answer one fundamental question: what does it mean to live as a writer? In other words, what is the difference between writing about the world and truly experiencing it? 

Who better to answer these questions than The Bard himself and his ill-fated rival? If you’ve ever wanted to see Shakespeare and Marlowe discuss art, legacy, travel, and death, this is the story for you. 

REVIEW: “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer

Review of Suzanne Palmer, “Bots of the Lost Ark”, Clarkesworld Issue 177, June (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Featuring 9, the much loved bot from The Secret Life of Bots, a Hugo award winning story. It can be read as a standalone story, which indeed I did, before further research led me to understand that 9 has made an appearance in a previous story. Of course it’s next on my list.

Bots of the Lost Ark, however, was an amazing tale. I’ve read Palmer’s work before, and I’ve loved every single thing I’ve read of hers. This is no exception.

9 is basically the little bot that could, and every other character – human or glom – is so well written. The urgency, the moral dilemma, the instincts and feelings that bots and ships can have, and an overall poignant yet humourous feel make this an absolute masterpiece.

I want to say more words but I can’t find the right ones, which is something that pretty much never happens to me. Just read this. I love. This has been yet another Suzanne Palmer appreciation post.