Fantasy & SF, Extended Edition – July 2012Posted: September 14, 2012
The Fullness of Time – Kate Wilhelm ( 4/10)
I didn’t like this piece very much. It’s about a family which has some sort of genetic mutation that makes them randomly fall in a narcoleptic trance, during which they travel to the mind of their future selves. It also makes them kind of crazy. Mercedes is a freelance writer that starts disentangling the secrets surrounding them.
I didn’t like the quality of the writing, and the fantasy/sf element of this story is not used for anything, except starting the plot – this is a thriller, not a sf novella.
Wearaway and Flambeau – Matthew Hughes (8/10)
This was really enjoyable. It’s about Raffalon, a clever thief, which is used by a wizard to steal a powerful artifact from a rival. He is caught in the act, but the revenge that is enacted upon him has unintended consequences, opening up some really lucrative possibilities to him and his now partner.
The story has a vancian flavor, also reminding me of the “Songs of a Dying Earth” anthology.
The Afflicted – Matthew Johnson (5/10)
This is based on the plague trope, with the twist that the virus only affects the elderly people. The afflicted are quarantined in camps placed in the wilderness, until they reach a sort of mindless, mad state, and they are either killed or they run away.
We follow a former hospice nurse, who now visits these camps to provide what little relief she can. After she leaves one of the camps, she finds a little girl lost in the woods, under the attack of a couple of terminal disease patients. She saves her, only to discover that the girl is not alone.
Quite an average piece of work, the story flows towards a predictable end without any major hiccups.
Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls – Rachel Pollack (6/10)
Supernatural story about Jack Shade, who is a sort of shaman (he can travel to other dimensions) for hire. There’s an interview about the background of this book. Jack has a tortured past, which is still haunting him, for which an explanation is given at the end of the novelet.
I liked the style of the writer, and Jack Shade is an ok character. According to the interview, this should be the first of a series of stories.
Hartmut’s World – Albert E. Cowdrey (4/10)
Story about Morrie and Jimmy, partners in investigating paranormal matters. In this case, people and things disappearing from an old castle that was moved from Austria to an american ski resort. Hartmut is the grof who owned the castle 400 or so years ago, and who was dabbling with black magic and other dark things.
I didn’t much care for this, because I found the tone of the story childish and the characters too sketchy and stereotypical (this was probably intentional though). But it’s ok if you like light-hearted horror with a humourous twist.
The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times – Eleanor Arnason (6/10)
Nice piece, told in the style of a folk tale of some alien race. Like the title says, it’s about a woman who cheats Death when it comes for her. She does this by using her pet and even her child as substitutes. As expected, this leads only to a life (unlife? – she falls in a river, but can’t die and becomes a sort of ghost) of misery.
A Natural History of Autumn – Jeffrey Ford (5/10)
Riku visits a hostess bar recommended by his boss and hooks up with one of the girls there. At his boss suggestion, they go to a guest house. Which Riku discovers that is haunted. The story finishes with a twist. But I felt the characters unrealistic, changing their behaviour too suddenly.
Wizard – Michaele Jordan (7/10)
A girl, on her way to violin lessons, sees a strange man and she literally can’t take her eyes from him. He’s the wizard, she’s his new apprentice. I liked this piece.
Real Faces – Ken Liu (9/10)
Ken Liu delivers an amazing story. Again. This time it’s about gender identity and discrimination. In a not so distant future, a holographic mask technology is developed. This begins to be used to hide one’s facial features during job interviews, to prevent any biases that can influence the results. It can also be used to distort one’s face during day to day business – although this usage is illegal in the US. And the question is: who would want to use this mask? Black and asian people? Or white people, who feel they are victims of positive discrimination? And how will this affect the identity of the person behind the mask?