REVIEW: “The Call of the Wold” by Holly Schofield

Review of Holly Schofield, “The Call of the Wold”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 67-81 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

If you’re looking for a story of a futuristic commune where the role of King Solomon is played by a 70-year-old itinerant on the run from her environmental charity owning brother, this is the story for you! Julie Leung is an engaging and distinctive choice of main character, and I sympathise with how difficult she finds the balancing act of being an introvert in a world built for extroverts.

I enjoyed the story well enough, though it started off quite introspective, with the external events mostly serving to give Julie reason to pause and reflect on her own life, both past and future, and it never quite lost its slow pace.

(And I have to admit, every single time I saw this title in my “to review” queue, I misread it as “The Call of the Wild”. I have no intentional if the Jack London reference was intentional, but it certainly was inescapable, for me.)

REVIEW: “Our Lady of the Wasteland” by Carly Racklin

Review of Carly Racklin, “Our Lady of the Wasteland”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This story has that chatty, conversational tone between narrator and reader that can work very well if the reader is given enough clues in order to know how to fit themselves into the context, but less well if the reader is left a bit floundering as to the who-what-why. I had enough details to place myself — a hot, dusty place, where shelter is hard to find — but I felt that the story was much more a monologue (and this despite the fact that it is clearly conversational!) than it was a narrative or a story. I felt like the speaker’s words should have moved me at the end, but unfortunately, I was left unmoved.

REVIEW: “The Thing in the Wall Wants Your Small Change” by Virginia M. Mohlere

Review of Virginia M. Mohlere, “The Thing in the Wall Wants Your Small Change”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I loved the title of this one, because I didn’t know whether to expect horror, humor, or Doctor Who.

What I got was a story of family ties and family love, and the ways in which our lives pull us in two, and which a third of the way through took a sideways turn that left me grinning from ear to ear, and another third later left me gaping speechless at how much power a single act — to take the word of a woman seriously and act on it, no questions asked — can have to make a reader want to cry. A lot of the story made me want to cry.

Read it. It’s sad and good and happy all at once.

REVIEW: “Frost” by C. L. Spillard

Review of C. L. Spillard, “Frost”, Luna Station Quarterly 34 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is the first time I’ve reviewed a story with a repeat title (cf. “Frost” by ‘Nathan Burgoine). But this is a very different sort of story than Burgoine’s fairy tale. This story is told in sparse, spare sentences with a tight, quick structure that reflects not only the tension and anxiety that Hu Tao wears on her sleeve but the same nerves that the unnamed narrator seeks to mask with a calm clarity of purpose.

The entire story is so short that it feels like a handful pebbles. But they are exquisite pebbles, and the way the author shifts POV partway through the story illustrates the old adage that rules are made to be broken, and Spillard breaks some canonical rules in the most perfect and necessary way. I enjoyed this short story very much.

REVIEW: “Conversation, Descending” by Richard Dansky

Review of Richard Dansky, “Conversation, Descending”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 25-28. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Reading Richard Dansky’s profile in the magazine, I fully expected to like this story. He’s a veteran video game writer and has seven novels and a story collection under his belt as well. Do I think this is a bad story? Not necessarily. All I can say for sure is this one was a bit of a dud for me, but I’d still recommend reading it yourself and forming your own opinion.

“Conversation, Descending” is a steampunky fantasy that opens with a fellow falling through the sky after he’s ejected from an airship. As tends to (in my opinion, unfortunately) come with the territory there’s a lot of pseudo-Victorian/Romantic era stilted language that in other subgenres might be pegged as thesaurus abuse. The first page is almost all repetition of the fact that our main character is falling and he’s just in his underwear.

There is a conversation with another character further in, as well as a few moments that would have struck me as particularly humorous or clever if the writing style, particularly that of the main character didn’t remind me so much of Harold Lauder from The Stand, chock full of m’lady-ish phraseology that I could all but see this character in a trench coat and fedora, fingerless gloves grasping the edge of his hat as he talked to other damsels along his way.

There is a nice sort of bait-n-switch toward the end but I hate to admit by that point I’d sort of half checked out. I do still recommend checking this one out for yourself, as hopefully you don’t have my hangups. There is humor and wit in here, so I hope you are able to appreciate that more than I was.

REVIEW: “Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse” by Cherie Priest

Review of Cherie Priest, “Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse”, Apex Magazine 108 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

I love political fiction. I particularly love when it’s well-written and thoughtfully constructed, tying past and present together with real human emotion and nuanced sentiment. “Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse” is somehow both vague and direct. The speaker is never named beyond the title, and the listener not at all, though it’s pretty clear from context that Mother Jones (the historical figure, not the magazine) is speaking to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There isn’t much of a plot here, in the traditional sense. It’s more a story of the legacy of one woman, who fought and struggled and endured insults from her enemies, speaking to another such woman still in the midst of her own story. It’s a call to action for all of us, to not give up even in defeat, to stand up, brush ourselves off, and continue with whatever long, slow fight we’ve committed ourselves to in this life. It’s refreshingly lacking the cliches and saccharine sentiments usually present in such stories, and more inspiring than most (at least to me).

Depending on your political leanings, this story might not land as well for you as it did for me, but I thought it was timely and well-done.