Tor, January 2011

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Tor, January 2011

“Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair” by Ken Scholes
“Beauty  Belongs to the Flowers” by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Reviewed by Caroline E. Willis

“Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair” by Ken Scholes is about a skinny, alcoholic clown freeing an alien monkey from an insurance company.

“Alien monkey” is a misnomer, of course; he only looks like a primate. However, it turns out the narrator is not terribly interested in such distinctions. Instead, Merton D. Kamal is interested in quitting drinking, impressing his ex from high school, and getting back into the circus biz. Scholes uses well-chosen details to create a strong sense of reality while describing the patently fantastic, and the result is a droll piece of SF that will make you laugh even as you develop a creeping sense of paranoia and a severe aversion to ex-girlfriends.

“Beauty Belongs to the Flowers” by Matthew Sandborn Smith is a cyberpunk romance set in a Nagasaki overlaid with customizable skins created by the people who share this perfect, altered reality. Miho is a school girl in love with Ichiro, who is himself obsessed with his flawless robot companion, Aimi.

This is, in many ways, a very old story. The fact that beauty is fleeting is not a new theme. However, Smith explores this in a specifically SF way, by contrasting this cultural meme with the fact that, through various enhancements, it is becoming possible to trap beauty in electronic amber and preserve it. Miho’s father is dying, being eaten on the inside by the very technology he was creating to prolong life. Ichiro is losing himself in the oversized manga eyes of a robot. Miho navigates this world with the ease, and pain, of a true native. Smith’s version of Nagasaki is beautiful and addictive and not terribly far off.