"Afternoon Download" by Calie Voorhis
"Rainfall" by Michael Merriam
Arune lost his kingdom and his bride-to-be in a game of dice with his cousin, Marek. Exiled to the forest, the Triad gifted him with the powers of a Hermit, and Arune has paid the price of that gift. Barely thirty, he is an old man. Moreover, he has lost most of his emotions, left only with a desire for revenge against Marek, a final game of dice to win back what he has lost. As the story progresses, we watch as the author strips even that away, until nothing is left.
Mignon has everything she could ever want in "Afternoon Download" by Calie Voorhis. The world is a paradise; the world news data feed soaks into her special implants, along with the sun, in this world where nothing can ever go wrong.
Except, of course, it does. The prose in this story is sometimes hard to follow, and the characters never do quite come alive for me, but the author nevertheless does an excellent job taking the reader along as Mignon’s world is shattered and then put back together—and then shattered again and put back into a different pattern. The characters’ abilities to access and examine their minds like data on a computer screen gives endless possibilities for that data to be shifted, rearranged, and even deleted, and gives rise to a story where even the reader can’t be sure what’s really true anymore, much less the character herself.
My biggest complaint is that the prose loses clarity as Mignon’s mind is twisted and warped. In order to write about a confused muddle of a brain, the story itself has to be crystalline. There were times when I found myself more confused about what was going on than Mignon.
"Rainfall" by Michael Merriam is a breathtakingly beautiful story of a love that transcends time and space, a pure, self-sacrificing love. I was in tears by the end of it.
Robert, who lost both his legs in a car accident, first notices Zoë at a bus stop in the rain, where drops fall around but not on her. Curious, he strikes up a conversation. She is a fey, fleeing from her perfectly ordered destiny, trying—with varying degrees of success—to blend in with the mortals. Over time, their friendship turns to love. Both are willing to give up anything for the other, and they may have to. Two people of two different worlds can’t mix easily for long. Is love strong enough to hold them together?