The May issue was a bit of a mixed bag for me, I’m afraid. A couple of 5-stars and a couple of 2-stars. There are a bunch smack in the middle at three that you may find more appealing than I did. As usual, here are my brief reviews of each story.
The issue starts with “The Mausoleum’s Children” by Aliette de Bodard, a deeply emotional tale of a young woman who escapes slavery on board derelict space ships only to return in an effort to help those left behind. The woman’s mentor in the free world tries to talk her out of it to no avail. Her determination and dedication take her to those she is trying to save, but their reaction is not what she expects. (My rating: 5/5)
Almost as good is “The Infinite Endings of Elsie Chen” by Kylie Lee Baker. A computer science grad student builds an AI machine to help her figure out why so many of her high school classmates have died so early. Reading the story I caught up in the student’s obsession in unraveling the mystery. In the process you also learn in subtle ways what led her to this obsession. (My rating: 4/5)
In “All These Ghosts Are Playing to Win” by Lindsey Godfrey Eccles, a man finds himself in a casino playing blackjack. The chips represent his memories. He is surrounded by other ghost who are trying to win their way upstairs. Though they don’t know what is up there, they expect it is better than being dumped int eh DARK when their chips run out. Suddenly he finds a ghost accompanied by her living sister. He and the living sister come up with a plan to win that doesn’t go the way they expect. A haunting tale of love and loss. (My rating: 3/5)
An odd young woman is raised by a man dedicated to preserving birds and preventing them from being used to decorate hats in “The Rain Remembers What the Sky Forgets” by Fran Wilde. In adulthood, her father sets her up as a hat maker. When her foster father dies, his widow requests that she make a hat using some of the birds from her father’s aviary. This goes against her principles, but if she refuses she will lose her inheritance. What is a girl to do? (My rating: 3/5)
“Désolé” by Ewen Ma is the story of two husbands raising a young daughter. One husband if from H city somewhere in Asia while the other is from France. They meet in school in France but make their home after graduating in H city. All residents of H city must consent to a data chip implanted in them. While his husband is away on a business trip, the husband from H city has a climbing accident and his chip is damaged and replaced with unexpected consequences. (My rating: 3/5)
For a poignant and experimental tale, read “Want Itself Is a Treasure in Heaven” by Theodora Ward. The narrator switches between telling us of the past and describing the present that followed. They and their partner join a study where they get implants that allow them to see and experience all that the other sees and feels. The narrator becomes a little too enamored with seeing through their partners eyes. This is a story about not being comfortable in your own skin. For me it is the best explanation I have read for what it must be like to be transgender. (My rating: 5/5)
The last two stories didn’t really connect with me. “A Lovers’ Tide in Which We Inevitably Break Each Other; Told in Inverse” by K.S. Walker is a creepy tale about two predators who hunt each other as well as being lovers. I didn’t really get the point, and it isn’t my sort of story. (My rating: 2/5)
And wrapping up the issue is “And For My Next Trick, I Have Disappeared” by Chimedum Ohaegbu. I had a hard time following the action in this one. A woman seems to slowly turn into a bus and then back into herself as she thinks of her old girlfriend. Again, I don’t know what this story is trying to do or make me feel. (My rating: 2/5)
Overall, my ratings for the stories in this issue average out to 3.375. The two 5-star stories really helped the average overall. While this was a weak issue for me, I still love and appreciate what the magazine does with the speculative fiction they publish.