“The Machine of the Devil” by Maria Haskins
Reviewed by Robert L Turner III
“The Machine of the Devil” by Maria Haskins is an attempt to poetically retell the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, with the SF/F twist being the prisoner’s lost ability to transform into a bird and escape. While the idea is interesting, the execution is lacking. The vocabulary is poetic, but the narration, done in present tense 3rd person doesn’t fit the concept. This is a piece with promise that failed to gel.
“The Peculiar Grace of Bees” by J. R. Johnson is a strange story that almost works. Told in second person, it describes coming home to a house missing a wall. At first the lack is frightening, then a gateway to adventure and finally is closed by bees. The story ends with an ambiguous coda making the reader wonder if the missing wall was nothing more than imagination. The story is interesting, but it suffers due to length. The missing wall is likely symbolic of a missing parent, but there is not enough world building to be confident of that interpretive leap, and without a little better guidance from the author the reader is left with a mood piece that almost offers something, but ultimately is unsatisfying.
“The Stars that Fall” by Samantha Murray is a very clever story that literalizes the idea of one’s doom falling. In this world each person’s death comes through asteroid like dooms who literally have their victims name written on them. When the time comes, they fall and kill the appropriate person. The world creation is rapid and subtle, telling the reader all they need to know without wasting any space. The logical connections to the realities of the world seem inevitable and the narrator’s reaction to finding his own doom is spot on. This is well worth the read and is a great example of what flash fiction can be.