Reviewed by Filip Wiltgren
Shimmer is a bit of a hit-or-miss with me. Either the stories are amazing, and I can’t get them out of my head, like “Skills To Keep the Devil In His Place” by Lia Swope Mitchell in #34 or “Number One Personal Hitler” by Jeff Hemenway (also in #34), or they miss and I have a hard time even finishing them.
Unfortunately, “Birds On An Island,” by Charlie Bookout, belongs in the second category. Featuring a decrepit, widowed, self-employed sailor and a toothless (ex-) junkie, it takes a long, slow, very literary look at loss, sacrifice and myth.
The story is a classic, character-driven slice-of-misery with repeated flashbacks, and while it does manage to wring the emotions somewhat in the end, I feel that the speculative element is gratuitous and the story too long for what it delivers. On the up side, there’s some lovely writing, and great local flavor, so if you value craft over plot, you will likely enjoy it.
Following in the maritime theme, Aimee Ogden‘s “The Cold, Lonely Waters” has three mermaids traveling to Jupiter’s moons through a mix of retro-science and space-punk alchemy. I really enjoyed the world building in this one, and the mixture of sea and space worked quite well. In fact, when the story ended, I wished it had been longer.
“The Cold, Lonely Waters” is a bit lighter on the literary bent, and a bit heavier on plot. However, it’s still clearly a shimmery tale, with beautiful language and wild ideas. For me, the pacing was a bit too slow, and reading felt more like going on a leisurely walk than diving head first into the ocean, but if you’re in the mood for slow and seductive prose, you’re likely to enjoy “The Cold, Lonely Waters” quite a bit.
“Extinctions,” by Lina Rather, is a horror-action story that hangs over your head like a rusty guillotine, one you can’t stop watching, waiting for that first small motion. In it, a hunter of the paranormal is forced to face her own guilt and dark nature while blood and death pound in her veins. Partially set in Alaska, it weaves local myths with modern tattoos, and a prose rhythm that makes my heart throb.
“Extinctions” hits a more conventional urban fantasy plot, pacing, and tone than is the norm in Shimmer, while still retaining all the weirdness and freshness of shimmery prose. It’s written in second person, which might put some people off, but in my opinion works very well once you get past the initial chock. Well worth reading.
In “And in That Sheltered Sea, a Colossus,” by Michael Matheson, a stranger arrives to a guilt-ridden, lonesome woman tied to her home by the deaths of her child and mother. The story is vaguely African in theme and setting, and might or might not be post-apocalyptic. Either way, loneliness and guilt thread their way through a story that is as much about florid descriptions as it is about guilt or distance. While I thought the setting was neat, I had a hard time getting into the tale, and it didn’t keep my interest. However, if you like beautiful prose, interesting visions and allusions, you will probably enjoy it.