Aurealis #111, June 2018

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Aurealis #111, June 2018

Graft Mage” by William Broom

The Egg and the Cat” by Miles Hurt
Deserted Lies the City” by S R Dean

Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia

A well-rounded issue of strong speculative fiction.

In “Graft Mage” by William Broom, soldier Hain finds himself alone on the wrong side of the front lines, the rest of his squad killed in action, with a military secret that could save his fellow soldiers’ lives, if only he can get to Temple Mar in time. A hostage situation then gives him the opportunity to save his own life at the cost of others’. Broom deals with themes of death, sacrifice, and the blurred relationships that can exist when your commander becomes your lover. An engaging military fantasy where a soldier’s weakness becomes his strength.

The Egg and the Cat” by Miles Hurt brings us the horrors of a world overrun by heartless, giant insects whose only care is to deposit their grotesque eggs, human dwellings notwithstanding. As Bingham agrees to exterminate one last egg at his wife’s prodding, his flashbacks allow us to piece together his own personal horrors, entangled with the horrors of the Mothers, but overshadowed by something worse: guilt. If disaster struck in your city, what dishonest deed might it catch you engaged in? Miles Hurt examines this question through the secrets of Bingham’s heart in this apocalyptic SF horror tale.

S R Dean begins “Deserted Lies the City” with a boy leveling a town, and the moral quandaries pile up from there in this compact short story. As Isa takes Elon from city to city, the boy must learn not only how to control his destructive power, often triggered by his strong emotional reactions, but also when it’s appropriate to put it to use. How about when the entire town and church turn against you? Where Elon and Isa believe in archangel Michael as a force for good and wish to save him from torture, the rest of the world believes that Michael has betrayed God and deserves his punishment, and his followers likewise. S R Dean employs just the right amount of Biblical reference, complete with armed mechanical preachers, to pull off this piece dystopian SF.

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 blog.