“Burnover” by K. D. Julicher
Reviewed by Kat Day
This issue of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show contains a collection of stories exploring every aspect of humanity. It’s lots of fun and was a real joy to read. Dig in!
In “Burnover” by K. D. Julicher we meet NK7, a suicidal centaur-bodied cyborg trying to protect some hikers from a deadly wildfire. Of course, the concept of the conflicted cyborg isn’t a new one, but this story is very well-executed and Julicher makes us sympathize with NK7 and the decisions it ultimately makes. The descriptions of the fire are brilliantly done –I could almost feel the heat and smell the smoke. Recommended.
Maxwell Peterson‘s “My Father’s Life, Furnished in Stars” is a slower-paced and more thoughtful piece, in which a physicist son visits his dying father. The son is there to show him the work to which he’s dedicated his life, but his father has important things to show him, too. This is a moving story that will tug on your heartstrings, particularly if you’ve ever spent time with a relative at the end of their life. Beautifully done.
In “A World Without” by Aimee Ogden we’re introduced to Sveth-ban-Ara, a Morningstar Knight who arrives at the city of Yinar with a battle to fight. The piece poses the question of what happens when a God goes mad and attacks his, or her, followers, and I’m sure there’s an intentional metaphor here for humanity’s own issues with religion. The world-building in this story is excellent and the characters are nicely developed, but it didn’t entirely grab me. Still worth a read, though.
“Comrades in Arms ” by Bud Sparhawk is another cyborg story. This time we meet Jason, searching a battlefield for his lost ISOBEL. He ends up teaming up with a human called Kraff and an “instance” named HYPERION. We learn there’s a hierarchy in this world, or perhaps more accurately a sequence of existence, from human to cyborg to instance. This is an interesting exploration of how the different types of being might interact with one another, going one step beyond the usual ‘everything’s trying to kill everything else’ trope. I really did enjoy this piece, but I found the human character a bit one-dimensional. This is a problem because, without giving anything away, he’s important at the end, and I felt his lack of character development sucked the power out of the story’s conclusion.
The protagonist in “Sin Titulo ” by Dan Stout is a teenaged boy named Egan Kulwicki who one summer, we’re told in the first sentence, “turned fifteen, fell in love, and got his ass kicked, roughly in that order.” As you might guess from that opening, this is a fun, fast-paced story. The other main character is a girl called Cynthia Patel who has returned for the summer from some sort of mysterious school, with the titular Sin Titulo roughly tattooed across her back. There are several other fantastic (in both senses of the word) characters in this story, but I won’t describe them for fear of giving too much away. I loved this, I fully expect to hear it narrated on the Cast of Wonders podcast at some point, and I would really like to read a longer piece featuring the world in which it’s set—write the novel please, Dan!
“The Life Cycles of Goldfish” by Jamie Lackey is an interesting take on the classic story of someone trapped inside while the zombie (for want of a better term) apocalypse takes place outside. What’s clever in this piece is the way Lackey uses the goldfish our protagonist is caring for as a metaphor for his own captivity and, perhaps, for humanity’s existence as a whole. A thought-provoking story.
Kat Day makes children handle fire and dangerous chemicals for a living (it’s okay, she’s a chemistry teacher). When not doing that, she spends her time writing and trying to wrangle her own two children into line (without fire or dangerous chemicals, because that would be frowned upon). She has had a short story published in Daily Science Fiction, another in the anthology “24 Stories,” and one upcoming on the Cast of Wonders podcast. You can follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask.