Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
A great issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show. Interestingly, two of the stories are detective stories.
“The Sound of Death” by Gareth D. Jones follows detective Ek-lo-don as he investigates the untimely death of Lak-do-sil for the Peace Service, starting with the apartment where the corpse was found. The story begins adjective heavy, jarring the mind with a bunch of “ing” words in close proximity, but the story quickly gains its footing as the plot and characterization balance out the descriptions. As hard as Jones works to present the reader with a profoundly alien world, he puts equal effort into painting Lak-do-sil as a sympathetic character solving a mystery that plays on the aliens’ human-like nature.
“Underwater Restorations” by Jeffrey A Ballard is science fiction (Part I of which appeared in the previous issue) told from the first-person perspective of a criminal underwater grave robber, Isa Schimdt, and her companions, Puo and Winn. When rookie Winn has a run in with the law, Isa, as the head of the group, must figure out what went wrong and if it’s even possible to break Winn out of a tough situation. The smooth-flowing narrative begins with an action scene, drawing the reader into the grave robbers’ life of crime with well-incorporated speculative technology. Ballard delivers an engaging story with good technique, which will help some readers overlook the familiar feel of the premise and conclusion.
“Extinct Fauna of the High Malafan” by Alter S. Reiss is a riveting Western hybrid where shotgun wielding paleontologists work alongside Necromancers to protect themselves from the vengeful spirits of the long-dead beasts they study. When a magical experiment goes awry, narrator Orn Hapt and his partner Renner Bock find themselves without their talented Necromancer, Dant Corder, fighting their way through a mess of spirits armed only with bone fragments and a camera.
“Rights and Wrongs” by Brian K. Lowe is told from the first-person point of view of William Goudreau as he serves as defense for extraterrestrial Edward Kane, awaiting trial on a murder charge. Goudreau’s biggest challenge is his own prejudice, fueled by the aliens’ recent war with humanity, in which his own parents were killed. Yet when someone tampers with the evidence, Goudreau finds himself invested in finding the truth for its own sake.
Lowe’s story combines tropes from several subgenres as a backdrop for Goudreau’s interesting narrative. The murder mystery subplot has a predictable end, while the realistic fate of Edward Kane is less typical.
“A Little Trouble Dying” by Edmund R. Schubert is the first person narrative of Jared Peterson, lone survivor of world-wide plague, N7HV3. Petersen describes his life since locking himself in his underground bunker – two hundred and fourteen years ago. The monotony of Petersen’s life evaporates when a human incarnation of Death comes along to make a deal with him.
While Shubert’s story is entertaining in tone, it lacks substance, never delving deep into character or world. The conundrum that the devil brings to the story rests on a thin membrane of tropes presented within the main character’s flippant descriptions. This comedy could have been improved by injecting a little more believability.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.