Short Fiction Reviews
From ClarkesWorld Issue 92!
I have been working my way through this issue for a few months now on and off. I have not completed this issue yet, for the shear reason I am reading some good novels and need to focus on one story at a time. But never fear, I am here with a review for three of the short fiction pieces included in this issue!
By: Mathew Kressel
- This short piece gave me the feeling of unease from the beginning.
- This short work opens with a crew on a ship finding a Human which they will rarely see in their orbits around the galaxies. Due to her unique species the crew, Meeker and the All Seeing Eye want to know about her past life.
- With this context I found the short story to be similar as to what a historian may do if they were given the chance to interrogate a historical figure.
- This interrogation was not dangerous to the crew, however their techniques seem to have caused great distress on the woman (Beth). While it may not be possible to do with a life interview with a past inhabitant of earth, I feel that the interview may end in a similar catastrophe as this did.
- Historians have been doing similar tasks for hundreds of years, just including documents from the past which if you ask me is safer than personal contact.
- This brings in the topic of humanities insaciable appetite for knowledge, which can and has lead us on dangerous paths in the past.
- This hunger for knowledge has been seen on many horrifying levels in history, although Dr. Mengele in the Holocaust is the example coming to me now.
- Mengele did experiments on those who were persecuted in order to find the limits of the human body, which are still useful today in knowing for example the pressure which a human can survive in etc... While ethically these are an abomination, I feel that they are tied into our unquenchable desires to know as much as possible.
- This is seen when the Eye states "'My sole purpose is knowledge,' said the Eye. ' I seek to know all things'"(Kressel).
- I was paralleling this line with my life, as a Biology major in university I have come to realize that this is exactly what I will be pursuing in the future. We as humans seek to comprehend the surrounding world on every level we can, now I cannot say if this is the right thing to do. However it is happening now and we all should be aware of our investigation techniques and their global impacts.
- I found this story to have a very fast pacing, due to the heave amounts of dialog present in the story.
- The writing is approachable for many audiences, it has few difficult phrases or words that would slow the reading process.
- This would be a great jumping off point for someone who wants to start sci-fi stories, as it is so fast and comprehensible.
- There are some flaws in this story in its writing style:
- The dialog style tends to lack in enough back story to evoke emotions and connections between the reader and the characters.
- The world also seems slightly open and undeveloped as well due to the length and transcript like style.
- This story leaves you desiring more.
- I was constantly asking myself where this was going, and why I cared.
- I also found the ending to be such an open ending that it did not give me many answers to my questions. This can be both good and bad, it could mean he will write more about these characters, or it may be that he just wanted to provoke a conversation which he did well.
- I would like to have seen some kind of backstory or larger picture surrounding what was so important about this woman's story and what they are doing harvesting the stars.
- In general this was fun, but I see some areas where it is hiding information that would bring more depth to the story.
- This lack of transparency with all aspects of the world he as made frustrates me as I am a character driven reader and like to understand as much as possible in a situation.
- I would be delighted to see more of this world and characters in the future!
- I was drawn into the two main characters, trying to understand their motives behind their mission, but some depth was lacking.
- They are almost like cardboard cut-outs since we get barely any description on them or their mission.
All in all even though I felt that there is something to be desired, I loved the thoughts about human nature and life and death. Each of these topics have stayed with me for a few months, giving me more ideas each time I see this story.
Rating: 3/5 stars
A Gift in Time
By: Maggie Clark
- I viewed this short story as a look into how humanity values out items.
- The whole short piece revolves around a man who works as a forger for a pawn shop, creating replicas of valuable items for his boss to sell and make a profit from. This works because the man Mouse is dilligent and very willing to help his boss in order to earn the meager pay he gets.
- The aspect of an objects worth is seen through out this story as each new artifact comes into the lives of these characters. Each item is given a monetary value and in some instances a personal value by which the item is valued at.
- These ideas of worth got my mind jogging about what exactly makes the items, books in particular, that I own worth so much to me?
- I feel that this question can be summed up in one word. Sentiment. If I enjoy a book and its characters, they become like family to me which means that I am attached to not only them but the physical book that I "met" them in. Call me crazy but I love my characters and the books that I first read them in hold special places on my bookshelf.
- But on a grander scale, this story brought the idea to my attention about why money has value to us? It is something that affords us the opportunities in life that we so desperately want, like a house with a HUGE library, and land to hike on; the value of money allows us these joys which in turn makes humanity obsess over the amount that we acquire. Though in spending as much time acquiring money as the Boss in this story does we will not have time to enjoy the "fruits of our labor" which is important, and we must take time to do that every now and then.
- That got deep quickly, I am going to stop there. But this short story had some intriguing concepts in it about value and worth that if headed we can see more into why we place values on certain items.
- This author's style just did not sit well with me.
- I cannot place it on anything in particular, however the way it flowed just left me jared and confused in some places. Although in a short story any confusion can hinder the whole story.
- This pacing is slow and meandering through a mediocre plot. Generally I enjoy the slow pacing, however I must me invested into the story and with this it was not working for me.
- I feel that this book holds some unique aspects in it, including the general ideas it handles dealing with monetary value.
- Again with this story I feel that the plot is just a meandering timeline in this mans life, if that is something you are interested in I would check it out. Although personally it was not for me.
- I found myself to be confused about the characters and what they exactly were, are they mice or a human named Mouse? I still am unsure.
Rating: 2/5 stars
Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds
By: E. Catherine Tobler
- Out of all the pieces in this issue, this one stood out to me the most because of its style, and ambiguity. I know earlier I was talking about how I dislike ambiguity, however if it is done right it adds a sense of urgency to the story.
- It is this sense of urgency I will be commenting on from this short story.
- As someone with a bit of anxiety when it comes to school work and doing the best possibly can, I can tell you that I have felt these same unnerving and immense curiosities before. This emotion though I felt it from a different scenario I was able to connect with this character in a way that many authors leave out for me.
- I am speaking of this feeling, as a form of dread. The major times I feel it include before exams and right after I turn in and recieve a graded paper. Though this narrator is someone who is looking for people she has lost in this "appocalypse" type event, I feel as though I am in her shoes throughout this story!
- Nerves are something that are often seen as controllable and unnecessary, though I feel that this emotion of dread and stress can add an atmosphere to a story or film that is hard to match. I am barely scratching the surface of this topic I enjoyed how the author played with our emotions going through this story.
- This story holds atmosphere at its helm and wields it with a mastery I have not seen in any other SFF short story.
- This book immerses you into a mystical, and disturbing "dystopia" sci-fi tale of finding those who you have lost.
- The writing style is easy to understand and follow
- I love the style of this story, she has some very whimsical and almost lyrical lines which are always buzz words for me in a story.
- The plot of this short story was peculiar and suspenseful, moving the story along very swiftly.
- I enjoyed how the story ended on a great piece of imagery!
- The character devotes her time to find people she has lost in this time, and finding who or what she is chasing.
All in all this story gave me chills and a sense of hope for this characters future, I would love to know more about this world or time.
Rating 3.5/5 Stars