"The Men Who Change the World" by Christopher East "She’d Never Had a Name Before" by J.R. Dawson "Destinations of Joy" by Alexander Weinstein "Fortune’s Final Hand" by Adam-Troy Castro
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
Christopher East’s “The Men Who Change the World” in the January 2020 Lightspeed follows Adam Fisk, a low-level clerk working for Ubiquity, Ltd, a worldwide corporation whose goals are hazy. Bored with his job, he meets Gordon McClelland, who offers him a drink. The next day, Adam is seeing the Ubiquity plant in a different light, looking nothing like the way he remembers it. McClelland introduces himself later as the representative of an underground movement that is wise to the company’s plan and is recruiting Adam to help out. The story is a marvel: just when you think it’s going one way, you realize it leaves the somewhat cliched setup behind. It’s also a master class in creating an alternate world through minor offhand comments. One of the best stories I’ve read in a while.
“She’d Never Had a Name Before” by J.R. Dawson has Jenna meeting her sister Sarah, who had died before birth. Sarah comes from another world, one where Jenna was kidnapped and lost forever and the two bond, but find the differences in their lives begin to be a problem. An interesting situation, which leads to a not particularly happy understanding. It’s mostly an idea story, but I feel more could have been done with it.
“Destinations of Joy” is a tour guide for a new, eighth continent, describing the life in various cities and countries. All are centered on ways to be joyful: Dunlo and Sunra, where one expresses joy wildly while the other is more cautious; Ahuoa, the ideal vacation spot with drawbacks; and Solglad, where everyone is treated kindly. Alexander Weinstein raises some philosophical points, but the structure, and the lack of characters, make it read more like lecture than a story.
“Fortune’s Final Hand” by Adam-Troy Castro is a series of vignettes about a woman called Fortune, a denizen of a casino where you bet your memories instead of money. Fortune has bet and lost much, and suffers the consequences. Interesting idea, but I couldn’t warm to it.