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

Aurealis #101, June 2017

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Aurealis #101, June 2017

 

A Cold Heart” by Allan Chen
 
Carbon Copy” by Adam J. Limbert
 
Perfect Assassin” by Raluca Balasa

 

Reviewed by Stephanie Wexler

Emily in “A Cold Heart” by Allan Chen is a dragonslayer. After a parent/principal conference regarding her son Sam, Emily has discovered Mr. Hayne is a dragon. Although at this point it is little more than a feeling, Emily starts researching Mr. Hayne’s history. He has a spotless, impeccable family and career, setting off a dozen warning alarms in Emily. As she delves deeper, digging up old newspaper clippings of local missing children, following Mr. Hayne and even eavesdropping on her son’s conference with the man, she is even more convinced about his true identity. This doesn’t sit well with Sam when he finds his mom has slipped back into a Hunter mentality. He wants her to stop. Yet, she can’t as she primes her weapon for the final confrontation. However, the glamour and illusion she originally sensed is far older, darker and conniving than the dragon and she may have lost her chance to stop it. Emily’s single-minded purpose to destroy the dragon has clouded her judgment. She leads us to believe that it’s for Sam’s sake, but as her investigation yields results she falls further into a self imposed darkness. In the end, Sam is the only real voice of reality that she chooses to ignore. Whether Emily or Sam are right is no longer a factor as both have made a critical mistake; not listening to each other. Regardless, it is an interesting mother/son story with a good mix of ancient world meets modern day even if it didn’t end well.

Detective Doppel has woken up in a tub of ice water in “Carbon Copy” by Adam J. Limbert. He doesn’t remember what has happened to him past the throbbing headache and a few shreds of what he ate before someone ‘brain rattled’ him. Concluding his Identity Theft case has gone south, he pulls out the “memory modem” unceremoniously from his arse, puts on the clothes mysteriously left on a chair and swigs the waiting drink too, before leaving groggy and desperate. The mounting evidence (clothes preference, favorite drink, preferred cigs) leads him to one final thought; they know about Angie. Course of action clear now, he needs money and to make contact with his girlfriend Angie. Bank withdrawal and a brief but strange conversation with Angie complete, he heads to rendezvous with her. Before Doppel makes it two steps out of the bank he notices he has been surrounded. Even quicker, Doppel is taken out, his mind oddly calm as he tries to warn Angie that he has been cloned, before another voice reveals the sad, sick truth. Clone Doppel is a truly confused person considering how he was introduced to the world. We never know if the target was the illegal clone operation or if it was just to flush out Doppel’s clone. Angie kind of gives it away that something is off with Doppel after the phone call, but I didn’t put two and two together until the last scene. Still, it was a fascinating take from a clone’s perspective even though Clone Doppel never knew he was the “Carbon Copy.”

Mahlia, a Seizer, and Dragan, a Silencer, are on an undercover mission from the Peacekeeper Council in “Perfect Assassin” by Raluca Balasa. Told from two different perspectives, the pair have been tasked with returning a stolen ruby ring to a noble. No sweat, right? However, Seizers and Silencers do not make good partners, we learn, because of different work methods. Still they are together because of a past relationship that Mahlia is none too fond of revisiting. Yet a job is a job. Mahlia and Dragan reveal in their own way they have done this dance countless times; Mahlia acting the double agent only to uncover Dragan’s trade secret. This time she botches the job in hopes he’ll use his Silencer ability on her. Plus, it seems Dragan is onto the Council’s approach to keeping him under control through Mahlia. Yet when Mahlia faces the Council, holding back her new theories about Dragan, it is clear she is not ready to end the tango and neither is Dragan. Telling a short story with two very different voices is a challenge. Mahlia and Dragan are very dominant people, but I never get lost when Balasa switched voices. The only shaky part is the how rich the story has become. It is no doubt necessary for the purpose of the story, but requires a bit of rereading since there is so much back-story doled out in order to understand the present. Yet, I am sure no one will mind reading this piece a few times.