I finished reading the July/August issue while on my recent vacation and am only now getting around to posting my reviews of the fiction in it.
The issue starts off with the excellent “SuperMAX” by Daniel H. Wilson. It is the story of a father who created an AI-controlled prison whose object it is to rehabilitate the prisoners so that they can be released safely. This father used his son as the basis of the AI with predictably unpleasant effects form the research process for the son. The father shows up at the prison unannounced in an effort to make amends. Things do not go as he expects in this heartbreaking and poignant tale. (My rating: 5/5)
This is followed by another superior effort entitled “Tantie Merle and the Farmhand 4200” by R.S.A. Garcia. An elderly woman living alone in Trinidad is given a robot by her daughter to help around the house. It becomes more than just a robot to both her and others with the same model. The story is told in dialect and is a little challenging to get used to. But this is important to the atmosphere and intimacy of the story. (My rating: 5/5)
“The Big Heavy” by Steph Kwiatkowski is about a generation ship, about the despair of being on a seemingly never-ending journey in the black void of space. The author does a good job of sharing the feelings of the community, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. I found it depressing and pointless. (My rating: 2/5)
What follows is an explicit gay romance with a love triangle at the center in “Anything with a Void at the Center” by Lee Mandelo. A young man working in a porn shop works out his feelings for his roommates. Aspects of the action in the porn shop were a little too much for me, but the care the young men show for each other is touching as is the working out of individual quirks. (My rating: 3/5)
In “Love at the Event Horizon” by Natalia Theodoridou a filmmaker avoiding making his latest film is saved by a ghost ship and falls in love with it’s captain. It is a story of facing your fears through the care of another. (My rating: 3/5)
“The Ghasts” by Lavie Tidhar explores childhood fear. A woman who seems to have overcome hers helps children overcome theirs. Only in this case, the fears are justified. And perhaps she hasn’t overcome her own as much as she thinks. A wonderful exploration of fear and helping others and ourselves. (My rating: 5/5)
A friend has to make a hard decision in “Theses on the Scientific Management of Goetic Labour” by Vajra Chandrasekera. He finds that his fellow student is working on a thesis that will end catastrophically, forcing him to confront what he values more, his friendship or his future. (My rating: 3/5)
The titular creatures in “The Music of the Siphorophenes” by C.L. Polk are giant space creatures somewhat like cosmic worms that live in deep space. A young pilot takes a galactic superstar singer to see them and hear their music. But what they find there is more than they expected, and not in a good way. This is a lovely story of overcoming secrets and pain through sharing them. (My rating: 5/5)
With four fantastic stories, I rated this issue at 3.88 overall. Even if you don’t read all the stories, be sure to catch those fab four.