Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

InterGalactic Medicine Show #66, December/January 2018

E-mail Print

InterGalactic Medicine Show #66, December/January 2018

The Occultation of the Bright Aspects” by Stephen Case

To Tend the Garden” by Filip Wiltgren
Gods of War (part 2)” by Steve Pantazis
Companionship” by Rhiannon Rasmussen
Carousel” by Terra LeMay

Reviewed by Mariam Melikadze

Overall, I was a tiny bit disappointed with this month’s issue of IGMS, which featured five original stories loosely linked together through the theme of family. Of these, I loved one (“Companionship”) and thought the other four were enjoyable, though not very memorable.

Stephen Case’s “The Occultation of the Bright Aspects” is set in a mysterious kingdom filled with dark magic, fantastical creatures, and spells that draw their power from the stars. The premise of the story was compelling: an influential order of astronomers has identified an oncoming “occultation” (eclipse) of “the bright aspects” (stars), which will render certain powerful spells vulnerable. The narrator embarks on a mission to use this knowledge to further her order’s political interests. The author was apparently inspired to write this story after witnessing a real-life lunar occultation. And it really shows—the intricate eclipse sequences are some of the most powerful writing in the story and central to the world-building. On the other hand, I felt the characters lacked depth and dimension. Vague hints of political intrigue were not enough context for me to understand the narrator’s motivations. Without the additional backstory, I felt like I was along for a beautiful, exciting ride, but not invested in the characters or the outcome. The unexpected ending also felt a bit contrived. I would have preferred a much simpler resolution to the story.

“To Tend the Garden” by Filip Wiltgren centers around a fraught mother-daughter relationship. Though there were mentions of fantastical elements (dream sequences of a wilted garden, references to witches and magical powers), the world never came together for me. While the characters were skillfully portrayed, I wasn’t captivated by the setting or interested in the storytelling. I never fully understood the context or the causal links driving the narrative (Why was the garden wilted in the first place? How did this relate to the health of the main characters?). I was left confused by the ending, not really sure what the point of the story was (or if it even had one). Ultimately, the plot felt like an afterthought to some of the beautiful imagery and emotional scenes in the story.

This issue also featured “Gods of War (Part 2)” by Steve Pantazis. The first installment (featured in last month’s issue) describes a world in which humans and machines are at war. The story follows a war-hardened fighter as he attempts to push back a robot resurgence. Most of the two-part narrative is action-packed and will likely appeal to readers who enjoy a good adventure story. For me, it was too dry and predictable, lacking character development, thought-provoking ideas and plot twists. In addition, I had huge issues with the ending. I don’t want to give away too much, but I thought the most climactic scene in the story was poorly written and did not convey the central message well.

And then there is Rhiannon Rasmussen’s “Companionship”—an excellent read. I’m a sucker for stories with unique takes on alien psychology, and this story really delivered. It opens with a boy crashing his ship into an alien, organic vessel. As there is no way out, he is forced to survive inside the living starship, and the two beings eventually develop a compassionate, caring relationship. The narrative is dark, filled with existential dread, but also beautiful—a lot of different emotions packed in this short story—definitely my favorite in this issue.

In Terra LeMay’s “Carousel,” a horse-breeding jockey laments his unsuccessful career. Though superficially about horse cloning, the story paints a vivid picture of how our society’s obsession with perfection in the era of genetic engineering gradually erodes diversity (whether physical or otherwise). While well researched and full of whimsical detail, this was another piece in this month’s issue I couldn’t get into and lost interest in mid-way.