Tor.com, June 2020
“Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker
“We’re Here, We’re Here” by K.M. Szpara
“The Night Soil Salvagers” by Gregory Norman Bossert
Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
In “Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker, Stella’s help cleaning out the house of a deceased childhood friend unearths reality-shifting evidence of a past that should only exist in her web of compulsive lies. When Stella blurts out the name of a childhood show she believes she’s invented for a lark, she soon learns that not only does the ultra-creepy “Uncle Bob” show exist on VHS tapes, but that she herself has ties to the show that she has no recollection of. Stella’s memories of her dead friend Denny take on new significance as she learns more about the show that nearly every kid in town took part in. Pinsker cultivates the traditional theme of prophecy and fate into her own brand of horror, blending folk-tale elements with modern knowledge of hoarding and compulsive lying. Stella’s own tenuous grip on reality keeps readers guessing which way she’ll go until the very end.
“We’re Here, We’re Here” by K.M. Szpara is an unapologetically sweet narrative where music executives attempt to keep transgender singer Tyler and the rest of the boy band in line by removing Tyler’s voice when he goes off script. Szpara constructs a compellingly intricate social setting where Tyler’s transgender status is openly accepted and well-known, but his affection for another band mate pits him against unwritten rules and the unbalanced power differential between band members and their record label. Tyler’s simple need to be himself plucks the universal cord of human rights, while the tender friendship of he and his band mates calls to our need for tribalistic support against any who abuse their power over us. Szpara’s accessible characters and solid story structure plunges readers into a compelling narrative of empathy and self-actualization.
Dadaist fantasy tale “The Night Soil Salvagers” by Gregory Norman Bossert presents readers with the lives and culture of the Salvagers, mystical beings who recycle the dead of the city for the sake of mother Earth, but who will also transport any nonliving object for a fee. What begins as a big-picture slice-of-life mystery spirals in on two characters who have both greatly affected the culture of the Salvagers through their more personal, relatable story. Bossert breaks with traditional story telling format with interspersed “performances” whose details gain meaning as the story progresses, revealing how even seemingly random culture elements hold meaning for their participants. A carefully constructed narrative with many Dadaist elements: highlighting the unsung importance of the lowest class, disdain of monetary wealth, and surrealism in art. Readers will either love or hate “The Night Soil Salvagers” for its surreal structure heavily steeped in mystical performance art.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her Facebook page.