Review #29: Aphrodisia by Lavie Tidhar

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Sep 8, 2010 in Reviews

Author website:
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


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 #9: Cory’s Father by Francesca Forrest

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Feb 7, 2010 in Reviews

Author Website:
Published by: Strange Horizons, February 1, 2010

The Story:

Willow’s Daughter has five children, each with a different father. She’s found love and lost it several times over, but that’s not all she’s lost — she’s in exile, trapped here in the world of hours and days while the sounds and sights and smells from across the border mock her. Over there is another world, and only a few possess the ability to cross back and forth freely. Like Vessy’s father. Willow’s Daughter used to tell her children stories of Vessy’s father, and of Fox’s father, and of Daisy’s father…but two of her children didn’t get father stories. One is the narrator, and the other is Cory…and Cory’s Father has a story that definitely needs to be told.

The Craft: Beginnings

SPOILERS (and excessive apostrophe use)

This story opens with the mundane — a weary mother who once told her children stories about their fathers when they needed cheering up. Except that two of the children didn’t get father stories. While this opening paragraph doesn’t hint at any particular genre, it definitely pulls the reader in with a strong question: “Why don’t the two children get stories?” Also, I’m wondering why the mother has so many different baby-daddies.

In the next few paragraphs, we learn that the narrator’s father was Willow’s Daughter’s true love. More importantly, we learn about Cory’s dad, who was just a twinkle in her eye, and though Willow’s Daughter won’t say much more on the matter, the narrator knows the true story of Cory’s father, the deal he made with their mother, and why she’s unable to see one of her children. Here, my genre antenna perks up. There’s something a bit odd about a woman who can only see four out of five of her children, especially when a “deal'” is involved. The tone of this has been established as the tale of a nameless, genderless child, a nice voice, though, which has a touch of honesty to it.

Next we get into the actually story of Cory’s father, which actually starts with Vessy’s father who is one of those few that can cross the border between here and there. Willow’s Daughter is currently pregnant with Vessy, and is vexed by the coming and going of the border which is something like a cloud’s shadow that looms and smells of sweet fern. It bothers her so, she neglects her children, leaving her older children to wrangle the younger. And then our narrator catches a stranger in Willow’s Daughter’s bedroom, a stranger who takes on the form of a large crow. They talk of here and there, and of the bargain Willow’s Daughter made — the one that exiled her. We’re clearly in a fantastical world now. There’s not a whole lot of setting or characterization, but there are a lot of questions that keep cropping up, and that’s what keeps the reader going, and quite effectively, I might add.

In fact, I wanted this story to keep going. The end sprung up on me suddenly, and although the story told me what it promised me (Cory’s Father’s story) I felt like I was left with a lot of questions that were never answered. Like what’s up with the narrator’s father’s story? What deal did Willow’s Daughter make to get her exiled? And what exactly is over there? To me, this felt like the first scene in a larger story, and I would love to see it continue.

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Review #5: Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs by Leonard Richardson

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 13, 2010 in Reviews

Author Website:
Published by:  Strange Horizons, July 13, 2009

The Story:

Racism rears its ugly head early in this piece when Tark, a Red Bull guzzling dinosaur from Mars, is denied the right to bare arms by a bigoted gun shop owner. Sure he’s already got three-inch claws, so what does he need a gun for, right? But that’s not the point. Tark’s got big dreams and is looking to branch out from his current career as a motocross driver — like starring in his own action movie. He’ll be the next Vin Diesel, except with feathers and an appetite for man flesh.

Tark’s pretty sure the Man is out to get him after watching one of his motocross comrades spin out on a three-story tall monster truck that’s obviously been sabotaged. Someone out there means to do dinosaurs in. Maybe those dino-hating birdwatchers, whose organization has split into factions over whether dinosaurs are birds or lizards. Tark’s friend Entippa thinks Tark has gone off the deep end, but just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

The Craft:

Dinosaurs. Guns. Motocross. What more could you ask for in a story? Despite being ridiculously hilarious, the story really makes you care about the characters’ plights. We all know what it’s like to be stuck in a dead end job with dreams of reaching for the stars. Tark’s no different from the rest of us. So when he and Entippa are tranquilized and captured and pitted against each other in the death sport of Dino Fights, the reader feels for the gravity of their bad situation.

Fortunately for Tark, his Red Bull habit counteracts the effects of the tranquilizers and he gets to be the action hero he’s always wanted to be. Unfortunately, his decisions land him in court facing charges of murder and (arguably) cannibalism. Hijinks ensue.

This story has more than a few laugh out loud moments, and is a truly enjoyable read. It’s constantly in motion, pleasantly absurd, and yet the plot itself remains solid and connected to the wonderfully weird rules of this world.

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