Review #29: Aphrodisia by Lavie Tidhar

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Sep 8, 2010 in Reviews

Author website: http://lavietidhar.wordpress.com/
Published by: Strange Horizons, August 2010

Photo by Christine Zenino Creative Commons

The Story:

A hub junkie, a hafmek, and a tentacled worm walk into a bar…

Three nest-brothers from Mars are running away from their pasts, and end up on the gritty, non-protocol streets of Earth. Here, the temperatures aren’t regulated, and neither are the people. It seems like a good place to escape reality, but no-space pop deity Aphrosisia’s music haunts our poor, washed up hub character. He’s still in love with her, though he’s been barred from no-space, the plugs in his skin filled in with bone and blood.

The Craft: 20 Master Plots: Love

SPOILERS

If you don’t feel the pain of unrequited love in this story, then you’ve got a socket for a heart. It’s a classic “Boy meets Girl, but…” situation, the but being the girl is an Upload Deity, everywhere and nowhere at once and the boy is a self-mutilated hub junkie banned from the no-space that she inhabits. There’s a physical (non-physical?) barrier that keeps them from meeting. Taunted by Aphrodisia’s music, the hub junkie can’t take the separation any longer and decides to jack in with the help of a back-street fixer.

The lovers are reunited in no-space where our character tries to plead his case, but is swept up in her lyrics. She once was flesh like him, but now she is real, a queen. Her message is that she is moving on, beyond no-space. Our character wakes up, so pathetic and bleeding from his wounded sockets. He doesn’t know what is beyond no-space, but there are no boundaries that he won’t cross for Aphrodisia’s love.

Short and sweet, this has to be one of my favorite stories of the year. Its intricate world building left me gasping for air and scratching my head and wanting more. I loved how seamlessly all of the tech and otherworldlyness blended it. It was our normal that stood out in this piece, as illustrated by the line “Earth is different to anything you can imagine.” The characters are endearing. Definitely a must read, and it’s even more fun on the second read.

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Review #28: Stem, Stone, and Bone by Deb Taber

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Aug 8, 2010 in Reviews

Author Website: http://www.inkfuscate.com/
Published by: Fantasy Magazine, August 2nd, 2010

stonePhoto by Jurvetson Creative Commons

The Story:

Jacinta has spent her days working in the cocoa groves of Venezuela since she was a child, collecting the beetles that hatch from the trees and slicing off their legs and proboscises with a little knife attached to her thumb. The lifeless beetles resemble beans, and the world is not ready or willing to think otherwise. There was a time when the children would go out and race beetles in the evenings as their parents got drunk on the black, blood wine of their harvests. But those times are gone now. There are no children being born in the Shining City anymore. The women only give birth to dull, lifeless stones, and life is changing all around them.

The Craft: 20 Master Plot – Metamorphosis

SPOILERS

This is such a lovely metamorphosis story since there are so many levels of change. Life and death, childhood to adulthood, stone to stem to bone to stone. But the cycle is broken, and Jacinta is worried about her future and that of the Shining City.  With no children being born, there will soon be no one left to harvest the beetles. Already there are no nimble-bodied little ones to pick up the cocoa beetles that have slipped to the ground.

Jacinta gave birth to a stone once, and not even a pretty one. Now, this world of hers is falling apart — dogs are giving birth to gemstones and caterpillars fall to the earth and become seeds. Jacinta gets it fixed in her mind that she wants to become a mother again, and since none of the men she knows would curse her with the pain of bearing another stone child, she goes into the city and tricks a man into impregnating her. Again she goes through the metamorphosis of motherhood, bearing a stone, but it is her stone, her child, her love, and her emotional journey is fulfilled.

There’s so much awesome in this story, I don’t even know where to start. The writing was superb, and the story sucked me in with its inventiveness and fully fleshed out world. The characters had depth, and I could easily feel for Jacinta’s plight. It’s simply a beautiful story, beautifully executed.

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Review #27: Beach Blanket Spaceship by Sandra McDonald

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Aug 7, 2010 in Reviews

Author Website: http://homepage.mac.com/samcdonald/
Published by: Clarkesworld Magazine, August 2nd, 2010

surfPhoto by Mike Baird Creative Commons

The Story:

Colonel Frank Merullo of the United States Air Force is stuck in a Vee-Reel — a virtual reality movie playing out before his eyes when he’s supposed to be focused on the crew of his spaceship and getting them safely to one of Neptune’s moons. This particular Vee-Reel is his Lieutenant’s creation, an old 1960s teen surf movie with polite, welcoming characters. Merullo is slow to get involved in the movie, sure that at any moment he’ll wake up an be back aboard his ship, but after the Vee-Reel’s failsafe device doesn’t disengage him from the system, Merullo starts to suspect that something else is going on.

The Craft: 20 Master Plot – Discovery

SPOILERS

Stuck in a virtual reality movie that he never authorized, Colonel Frank Merullo does his best to hold on to what ties him to his ship. He refuses to take off his space suit as characters flock around him in their swimsuits at the beach, laying out and catching waves and having the times of their lives. But as the movie progresses and rescue seems less and less likely, Merullo starts to let down his guard some, getting to know the characters and trying to figure out what this simulation is supposed to mean. Away from the Space Corps and its regulations, he finally gets the chance to discover things about himself, of life, love, loss — all the sacrifices he’s made to get to where he is.

The Vee-Reel starts feeling more personal, the characters taking on faces from Merullo’s past. He struggles to hang on to the memories, but they’re slipping fast. He looks for his space suit, his last tie to reality, but it’s gone missing. Five dead gulls lie in the surf, and suddenly Merullo starts to realize the truth, that this is his last chance to deal, to let go of the man that the Space Corps had made him, and reclaim a little bit of himself before his forever is over.

I liked how this story kept me guessing if Merullo really was in a Vee-Reel or simply out of his mind. This journey of his was a very personal one, of him confronting the life that he’d made for himself, fulfilling in so many ways, but lacking in the ways that matter most. This story shied away from melodrama and used symbolism effectively, but I can’t help but feel just a bit slighted by the story, and though it illustrates a good lesson, I wish there was more to chew on.

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