Uncanny #21, March/April 2018

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Uncanny #21, March/April 2018

I Frequently Hear Music in the Very Heart of Noise” by Sarah Pinsker

And Yet” by A.T. Greeblatt
Like a River Loves the Sky” by Emma Törzs
The Testimony of Dragon’s Teeth” by Sarah Monette
Pistol Grip” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
The Howling Detective” by Brandon O’Brien

Reviewed by Stephanie Wexler

Sarah Pinsker’s “I Frequently Hear Music in the Very Heart of Noise” sets up a meandering narrative about the who’s who of entertainers who received their mythic beginnings in New York. Actually, Pinsker attempts to organize the cultural atmosphere by sectioning the drama by hotel, where each artist or musician stayed, double dosing the story with a thick historical background. It is almost too much. Even though this doesn’t really follow a traditional storyline, it does an incredible job of illuminating New York’s cultural scene. Get ready for a roller coast ride through history.

And Yet” by A.T. Greenblatt follows a man’s pursuit to explain the metaphysical properties of a haunted house that plagued his youth. Having earned his doctorate in theoretical physics, he revisits the site and enters the house convinced he can solve this puzzle. However, the further he ventures into the home the more distracting and disturbing each room becomes. He manages to pass through each torturous memory until the very end when the house reveals the most enticing and heart-wrenching moment. Greenblatt offers a dynamic way to explore a person’s life’s choices though it leaves the mystery of the haunted house for the next unsuspecting guest.

Adriana in “Like a River Loves the Sky” by Emma Törzs spends her time working for a removal service/antique store and having philosophical debates with her childhood friend. Her father gone and her mother an empty husk from Alzheimer’s even her job has lost its charm. Just barely hanging on mentally, her childhood friend NPW (a taxidermist) tries his best to get Adriana ready for him moving out. Considering how Adriana and NPW spend their time, it comes as a surprise that NPW has a girlfriend. Yet, Adriana clearly loves him, but is more distracted by her own depression. It doesn’t stop NPW from showing his love the best way he can before departing. Despite the almost obvious outcome, Adriana’s reaction to NPW’s gift is haunting, bittersweet and perfect.

Mr. Booth learns about an acquaintance’s death in “The Testimony of Dragon’s Teeth” by Sarah Monette. Those people having read Monette’s works, be ready for a satisfying treat. Geoffrey Usborne Bryant was never a friend of Mr. Booth, yet he finds himself elbows deep in Bryant’s life work at Parrington Museum. It could be said they had a passing moment as grade school chums before going their separate ways. It isn’t long that Booth finds a poppet among Bryant’s papers. Alarmed, Booth investigates who planted the mystic items and starts piecing together a picture of what a dick Bryant was and how his colleagues loathed and envied his talent. Monette’s supernatural angle highlights the desperate and misguided efforts of revenge, which indirectly reveals Booth’s opinion of Bryant’s works.

R9-series supersoldier and E4-series infiltrator in “Pistol Grip” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad are both obsolete models. After escaping their handlers, where the supersoldiers waited to be replaced, R9 and E4 spent their time plotting who they are going to kill. They work, live and even make love with gusto taking all the moments they have left before facing their inevitable fate; shut down. Despite the kinky sex and their dire fate, E9 and E4 create a fatalistic dynamic, yet are still able to move forward with their plans and enjoy pockets of peace. Prasad creates a hard look at what desperation looks like when an obsolete model has nothing left, but revenge.

Ken has a problem in “The Howling Detective” by Brandon O’Brien. Ken has been sleeping walking. After setting up a home camera system Ken sees a Lagahoo dragging a coffin out his front door. Surprisingly, Ken logically figures out what direction the creature is going and then sets out to see if he has committed a crime. Enter Constable Roy Hunte who strives to find the culprit of a missing child case. Obviously, Hunte runs into opposition and gets nowhere. Good thing Ken is around. Ken carefully uses his unique transformation to handle touchy crime scenes without getting caught or raising too much suspicion. O’Brien has a great sense of the supernatural that ramps up the suspense, making rooting for Ken and Constable Hunte a great CSI romp.