Reviewed by John Sulyok
“Chip’s Six Attempts at Popularity” by Jake Kerr
The grass is greener on the other side. How many stories have had a character think that things would be so much better if they had only made a different choice or lived their life a different way? Too many for it to be of any relevance anyway, especially when it’s played as a straight-up morality tale. Which is exactly what “Chip’s Six Attempts at Popularity” is.
Chip is a seventeen-year old genius, apparently, because he builds a time machine in his room so that he can go back into his ten-year old self’s body and become popular instead of the geek he became. Buying into the story’s idea that he can actually build a time machine in his room, it’s too much to ask to overlook the inherent flaws within the internal logic here. At one point, Chip goes back and still hangs out with his unpopular friends while he’s busy scheming. But he says he can’t relate to what his friends are into because he doesn’t have time to watch those movies or play those games. But hasn’t he already watched those movies and played those games his first time around? Also, he plans on getting rich in one of his six trips back. But he’s the kid who built a time machine in the first place, wouldn’t that be enough to make him rich and famous?
The whole thing is a mess that inevitably leads to him realizing he was happier off where he started. There’s no tension, no conflict, no big ideas. Just a plain white dish to serve a moral on.
“Samsara” by Rachael Acks
Laraine is part of the crew of the Sita, a ship heading to the Dragon’s Horn to establish a base and harvest its resources. But despite the fact that they were the only ship heading there, they weren’t the first to arrive. Laraine explains the mystery to her husband, Chandra, through video letters that he will receive once he is woken from long-term cold sleep…if he ever does.
There isn’t much to “Samsara” by way of plot. Events happen, characters perform actions. And the final point is confusing to decipher. Does Chandra get her letters; is he alive or dead? Even the (minor) mystery is played too straight so that nothing that happens is interesting.