Tor.com, November 2019
Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett
There are three first publication stories in the November issue of Tor.com.
“In Xanadu” by Lavie Tidhar
Tidhar’s science fiction short is set on Saturn’s moon Titan. The Others, a digital life form, have established some bases there, guarded by specially trained humans for several generations.
One such human guard, Nila, a third generation Banu Qattmir, finds the sameness of peace boring. But when she next goes out on patrol, she discovers android beasts have breached the impenetrable perimeter, while the rest of her patrol has gone missing. Here was the adventure she not only sought but was born for.
The story’s pace began slowly as it described the setting. Later as the prose picked up speed the plot never engaged the reader.
“The Touches” by Brenda Peynado
Salipa lives most of her life in virtual reality in this SF short, set in a future dominated by super-resistant bacteria. Each human remains isolated in their own biosphere as survival in the dirty world isn’t possible. At nighttime, people unplug from the VR and read, bathe and sleep in their dirty-world cubicle, cutoff from any human contact and supported by a robot nanny. Salipa is married to Taleo, though she’s never seen anymore of him than his avatar.
Salipa is having difficulties as her nanny begins to act strangely. Things get worse when her dirty-world work robots malfunction too. Eventually, Salipa must risk venturing outside in a roaming biosphere, where a chance encounter turns her isolated life upside down.
This was an entertaining look at a future world that at first seemed to be entirely without hope.
“Precious Little Things” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This short fantasy is set in a world of magic, where a past great and ancient mage bestowed life to homunculi made of wood, stone, cloth or paper. Liat is a tiny wooden doll, crafted by her father and accepted onto the Shelf to learn magic. Though of lowly birth, she works hard until the paper-made magicians finally see her as a fellow magician.
Then, one day, three giant magicians made of flesh and blood come to break the charms that have protected the homunculi and steal their treasures. Liat’s unique perspective helps the little people prepare for the invasion.
This was an interesting read and is the prequel to the Made Things novella published as a Tor tpb on November 5, 2019.