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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Aurealis #78, March 2015

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Aurealis #78, March 2015

 
"Discarded Pieces" by David Coleman
"Enfolded" by J. Michael Melican

Reviewed by Colleen Chen

"Discarded Pieces," by David Coleman, is the story of a woman who is the sole survivor of an attack on a cargo freighter in space. Floating in a life-suit with artificial intelligence, she can stay alive for some time—the life-suit provides whatever food and ambiance she needs, and can put her in stasis to extend her life-span. With no rescue in sight for years on end, and with the nearest star three light-years away—which translates to 10,000 years of normal space speed travel—she tries to make the best of a really rotten lack of choices.

This story is short but powerful. It's kind of Twilight-Zone-esque--confronting the reader with an idea so horrible--of being trapped 10,000 years away from the nearest possible other life, without even a guarantee that any exists--that it's surreal. The characters are ones we'll identify with--the protagonist is resourceful and resilient even in the face of impossible odds, and the AI of the life-suit is about as nurturing and kind as a life-suit could be. I found it deeply touching--about the best part of humanity emerging even when confronted by a long-drawn-out, lonely, and almost-certain death.

In "Enfolded," by J. Michael Melican, Jack's brother Joey is in trouble. He's in debt to a mob--and a strange one at that, with a slick, handsome young boss with a couple of yellow-eyed, sharp-toothed henchmen doing his dirty work. Jack, with a special power to "fold" things into other dimensions--to make them so small they disappear, or so big they consume everything--tries to negotiate Joey's debt. The boss offers to trade Joey's debt for a favor, to steal something from a bank. Jack knows that it's not such a simple offer, and he tries to balance protecting his brother with protecting himself from getting in too deep with this sinister man with a special and very dangerous power of his own.

This is a smart, tense story with an interesting premise. I found all the characters annoying, though—particularly Joey, who sounds like a greasy good-for-nothing, and Jack, whose power makes him a little too perfect and invulnerable. The mob boss made me think too much of Agent Smith in The Matrix. Still, it was a satisfying read with great action and an ending that made me feel good.