“A Vastness” by Bo Balder
Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett
This 140th issue of Clarkesworld contains six stories, two of which are reprinted and another is a translation of a story published in China.
“A Vastness” by Bo Balder
This is an SF short story set in the future. Humanity has encountered strange beings which they dub Guardians. People believe them to be harmless, though they are massive in size and seem to be able to move through time and space. Even a planet cannot stop them.
As a teenager, a Guardian had traumatized Yoshi by passing through her planet. Now she is following a group of them as they leave the galaxy. She tries to close the gap, even as they prepare to move into subspace. It is time for Yoshi to take some desperate measures before the Guardians disappear.
Balder has written an interesting story, revealing space and sentience to be very strange indeed.
“Not Now” by Chelsea Muzar
A family’s house is badly damaged when a giant robot’s arm crashes into it in this short SF tale. The arm destroys the daughter’s bedroom.
The family is of Japanese descent and soon the public outcry blames them for the accident, calling them robot lovers. Nothing seems fair to the daughter and even her parents tell her to ignore the hatred thrown by the crowds that congregate outside their house, saying it will all pass soon.
The story had an edge to it, leaving the reader caught up in the senselessness of prejudice. But at times the prose was too slow to be an appealing read.
“Fleeing Oslyge” by Sally Gwylan
Senne is a civilian fleeing from the alien Tysthander in this SF novelette. She joins up with a small band of soldiers trying to reach safety in the marshlands. But these desperate men also pose new dangers for her.
As they trudge through the wastelands, Senne learns of the many tricks the invaders employ. And when they unexpectedly encounter the aliens, she and the soldiers are hard-pressed to survive.
This was a slow-moving story that had a staccato feel to the prose. Not until the end did the pace finally pick up.
“Farewell, Doraemon” by A Que (translated by Emily Jin and Ken Liu)
Que’s science fiction novella is about Hu Zhou, a cartoonist who returns to the village of his childhood. Memories of his pre-teen years come back as he listens to the old recording of his favorite cartoon, Doraemon. His memories of Tang Lu, the girl he liked, also came flooding back, as do the haunting images of the old hag who lived near the river.
He discovers that Tang Lu had fallen on very tough times and was eventually forced to marry an alcoholic gambler who beat her regularly. As Hu Zhou peels away the mystery of those pre-teen years, he discovers his own unsuspecting role in his friend’s turn of bad fortune.
When Hu Zhou decides to seek help from the old woman, she offers him a chance to help Tang Lu, if he has the courage to embrace his oldest fears.
This story was an interesting and engaging mystery, though the speculative aspects were only revealed at the very end of the tale.