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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Tor.com -- October 2019

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Tor.com, October 2019

Water: A History” by KJ Kabza

Naked, Stoned, and Stabbed” by Bradley Denton
As the Last I May Know” by S. L. Huang

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

There are three first publication stories in the October issue of Tor.com, including one novelette. In addition, there is a reprint of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat.”

Water: A History” by KJ Kabza

Kabza’s graceful science fiction short is set on an arid planet where Marie is the last living Earth-born colonist. Unlike others, Marie enjoys spending time outside despite the risk of cancer and desiccation from the extremely dry air.

A teenage girl, Lian, befriends the old woman and soon convinces Marie to take her outside. Marie enjoys the girl’s company and the other colonists accept the relationship, thinking Lian is the granddaughter Marie could never have. In time, though, Marie’s luck runs out.

The story’s easy pace, strong character development and intriguing plot make this a heartwarming story.

Naked, Stoned, and Stabbed” by Bradley Denton

Freddie is a roadie for The Who in this fantasy novelette. He is also a joker who can produce powerfully amplified sound when hurt. The more he’s hurt the more powerful the voice. Freddie is in NYC at The Who’s concert and badly conflicted over whether to look for his joker-ace half-sister, who doesn’t know he exists.

At the small-venue concert, a fire breaks out trapping the audience. As the band and crew flee, Freddie stays on the stage to help the audience escape by blowing holes in the walls. Unbeknownst to Freddie, his half-sister is outside helping people with her joker daughter. As things deteriorate the disparate heroes must find a way to work together.

This was an entertaining Wild Cards story, full of flowing action. It was a pleasure to find a long page-turner.

As the Last I May Know” by S. L. Huang

This short alternate history is set on an Earth where the leader can launch missiles to destroy the enemy, but the leader must kill a little girl to get the launch codes. Nyma is the ten-year-old girl designated to carry the codes buried beside her heart. The idea is that only in the grimmest of situations will the leader choose to kill a girl by his own hand to save his country.

When the leader comes to power, the country is at war, and Nyma fears the new President will kill her soon. As the war goes well, her hopes rise, and she begins writing poetry that the people enjoy. But by her thirteenth birthday the war has turned bad and the capital is under daily bombardment. As the reality of their check and balance comes into harsh focus, the powers struggle with what to do about the little girl the country has now come to love.

The character-centric story explored some interesting topics. Overall, it was an engaging read.