Tor.com -- June 2019

Tuesday, 02 July 2019 17:32 Kevin P Hallett
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Tor.com, June 2019

Any Way the Wind Blows” by Seanan McGuire

Skinner Box” by Carole Johnstone
The New Prometheus” by Michael Swanwick
A Forest, or a Tree” by Tegan Moore

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

There are four first publication stories in the June issue of Tor.com, including two novelettes.

Any Way the Wind Blows” by Seanan McGuire

McGuire’s SF short story has Captain Isabelle Langford sailing an airship between parallel universes to chart the various Manhattan islands. Most universes have some commonalities, and one of these is the Flatiron building.

After stopping the airship over this dimension’s Flatiron building, Isabelle sends her incursion crew down to look for artifacts they can take. But, an hour later, the incursion team makes a most unusual call for the captain to join them.

The story’s pace was okay, but aside from a couple of superficial nuances, this plot did little to advance the SF genre.

Skinner Box” by Carole Johnstone

Evie is a neuroscientist on a trip around Jupiter and back in this SF novelette. The crew of three includes two other scientists, Evie’s abusive husband, Don, and an engineer named Mas.

On the year-long journey Evie has nowhere to escape Don’s physical abuse except to seek solace with Mas. And thus, they form a strange love-triangle. She dreams of seeing her husband dead, and Mas is determined to help her. But when she tells Mas not to take any action, is she really manipulating him, like a rat in a skinner box?

With an engaging pace, this story had many twists, turns and intrigues. Just when the reader was convinced the story was ending, another twist sent it off again.

The New Prometheus” by Michael Swanwick

This short fantasy continues the series about the Mongolian Wizard. Sir Toby sends Ritter to find a homunculus built by the Mongolian Wizard from animal bones and a human brain. It has the power to destroy everyone and Toby charges Ritter to find it and decide whether to kill or free it.

When Ritter tracks down the mis-named creature, he finds a civil man, with untold power and plagued by deep-rooted conflicts.

The story’s pace was okay, but the plot felt weak and the characters had no empathy encouraging dimensions to them.

A Forest, or a Tree” by Tegan Moore

Four girls go camping in the woods, well beyond the range of cell phones, in this horror novelette. Each has her own story of why she’s out in the woods. When the girl most afraid of the forest begins to see things, the others don’t believe her, but perhaps they should.

Overnight one of the other girls becomes extremely sick and the three others must make plans to get some help for her. If they can escape, that is.

The first half of the story was slow as it set the scene. The action picked up in the last third, and in the end, the plot had a good dose of creepiness.