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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993
Novellas, Chapbooks, Misc.


The Necronaut by R. N. Jordan

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The Necronaut

 

by

R. N. Jorden

 

(Spaceboy Books, April 2017, pb, 120 pp.)

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Never, Now, Always by Desirina Boskovich

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Never, Now, Always

by

Desirina Boskovich

 

(Broken Eye Books, June 2017, pb, 98 pp.)

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The Product by Marina Fontaine

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The Product

 

by Marina Fontaine

 

(Superversive Press, October 2016, pb, 92 pp.)

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Caresaway by DJ Cockburn

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Caresaway

by

D J Cockburn

 

(Annorlunda Books, Jan. 2017, pb, 86 pp.)

 

Special Double Review by Laura Gobourn & Jen Finelli
 

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The Adventure of the Incognita Countess by Cynthia Ward

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The Adventure of the Incognita Countess”

 

by Cynthia Ward

 

(Aqueduct Press, January 2017, pb, 126 pp.)

 

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The Desolated Orchard by John F. D. Taff

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The Desolated Orchard

 

by John F. D. Taff


(Cutting Block Books, kindle edition June 2016,

print edition forthcoming)

 

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Zen City by Eliot Fintushel

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Zen City

by

Eliot Fintushel

 

(Zero Books, June 2016, pb, 125 pp.)

 

 

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The Sunken Cathedral by John. F. D. Taff

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The Sunken Cathedral

By John F. D. Taff

(Grey Matter Press, August 2015)

 

Reviewed by Stevie Barry

John F. D. Taff's "The Sunken Cathedral" is a disconcerting, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking novella of abuse and survival. The protagonist, Jake, narrates the history of molestation he suffered at the hands of the family priest when he was a child, and the ways in which it quietly destroyed him. Young and sheltered, he does not initially understand what Father Matt really wants of him, but, as a good altar boy, Jake wants to please the priest—no matter how wrong some of his requests might seem. The tale swiftly becomes deeply claustrophobic, and is rendered more complex by the revelation that Father Matt was himself abused by his priest, addressing the fact that, all too often, abuse is cyclical. As an adult, he thinks that perhaps his parents suspected something, because the family stopped going to church, but the issue was never formally addressed—something also all too common in reality.

The sinking of the titular cathedral is something only Jake is witness to, but it could easily also be read as a delusion of his increasingly fractured psyche. He wants to escape, but he is uncertain what it is he must escape from, and the cathedral is not risen from the water until he returns to the source of his personal demons and faces them.

Beautifully written, emotionally draining, this tragic story ends on an uplifting note, leaving the reader—and Jake—with hope rather than despair. Nevertheless, it might be best to have Kleenex on hand before sitting down with this one.

 

Fingerbones by Erzebet Yellowboy

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Fingerbones

 

by Erzebet Yellowboy

 

(Masque Books, May 2015, 81 pp.)

 

Reviewed by Colleen Chen

Fingerbones by Erzebet Yellowboy is a novella told from the points of view of two different women. The first is Nusht, who lives on the island of Karbesh. Inhabited by a group of women left there two or three generations ago, Karbesh's sole connection to the mainland is visits from mute boatmen who come regularly to have sex with those women willing, and to remove any boys born of those encounters. These women suffer from an inevitable wasting sickness that has killed all their mothers and grandmothers.

Nusht, who is experiencing the first symptoms of the sickness, sees that disease as a pattern that they are trapped in. She craves a breaking of that pattern, and this desire finds an outlet in small constructs she randomly makes with driftwood, seaweed and fishbones from the beach. Oddly enough, these constructs seem to come alive when she makes them—moving of their own volition, and when she adds feathers, some of them actually fly. She doesn't understand how this could happen, but she continues to make them, as they symbolize a way out of the pattern of inevitable death they exist in. She makes her constructs, she visits her mother's grave, and she prays.

Fairka is the second focal character of the story. As a child, she was caught trying to steal and had her fingers cut off. Since then, she has had an educated, comfortable life with the priests—comfortable except for the fact that her sole purpose is to serve as a sacrifice when she comes of age. That time is now, and she goes to her execution brimming with resentment, fear, and an overwhelming desire to live.

This latter feeling is what she has in common with Nusht, and it's what binds their paths together. One of Nusht's flying bird-fishbone constructs somehow makes its way into the temple. The instant before Fairka receives her lethal injection, it touches her hands, and a miracle occurs—her fingers burst into existence, fully healed.

She is saved, but only for more indignities, to be subjected to endless research and examination—especially when it's discovered that her hands now have the power to heal any illness or injury on anyone else. This prison is exchanged for yet another when next she is kidnapped and sold. Fairka dreams of vengeance, of bringing plague upon her wrongdoers, as she tries to find a way out. She struggles with both the physical walls and locks that restrain her, and her own naivete about what people are like and what they are capable of. Life keeps showing her that her path has to do with being "mindful of all that we have yet to discover, and to improve upon that which we have."

Fairka's and Nusht's stories alternate chapters, and slowly their fates are drawn together, until they come full circle in a way that feels complete, if somewhat bittersweet.

This novella is very well done. The characters feel alive, and I was moved by both women's predicaments without the use of obvious melodrama in the story's plot points. The writing is even-handed and subtle, with the same sort of inner beauty each of these women exhibited. Fairka is defiant, short-sighted but with strength; and rapidly weakening Nusht has a tenacity to her vision that is fueled by wisdom and compassion. Each woman is hobbled by something they cannot control, and this story shows how they find their peace within a greater matrix of life.

This is a strong, beautiful, yet sobering story, one that isn't escapist despite its fantastic elements. Personal power cannot overcome fate or the natural limitations of the cycles of cause and effect that shape the patterns of the world. Layers of meaning enrich and deepen a story that made me think and feel and take a little of its flavor into my world, once I emerged from its pages. It's not usually what I consciously look for in reading, but when I find it, I truly appreciate it.

 

Paranoia and the Destiny Programme by Richard Godwin

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Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

By Richard Godwin

(Black Jackal Books, March 2015, 71pp.)

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