The Sword Review #27

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“Voice of the Spoiler” by Michael Ehart
“The New Elementals” by Marshall Payne
“A Mother’s Gift” by Melissa Cuevas
“The Poet” by B. A. Barnett

I’m not quite sure what exactly happened in Michael Ehart’s “Voice of the Spoiler.” It could be that it’s a non sequitur of a story that switches back and forth between first and third person. Or, it could be that each segment is part of a different temporal loop. Regardless, the structure isn’t well enough defined for me to understand its entirety. While Ehart tries to tie together a complicated story in a short amount of space, I would have preferred some bigger setup for a better understanding of what happens in the end. Because we are only shown glimpses of characters throughout time, we don’t get to know or identify with them.

Once you get past the technobabble in “The New Elementals,” it’s really a funny little joke. Author Marshall Payne is clearly smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand a word of the science in the story, but thankfully it’s short enough that that’s really not an issue. “New Elementals” is essentially a long form play on words. I don’t want to say too much (in part because I don’t understand the science) but it’s fun, short and incredibly intelligent.

Melissa Cuevas’s “A Mother’s Gift” really surprised me. It starts out as nothing remarkable, a first person narrative of a rich mother with a terminal illness on a journey. It’s low tension and doesn’t seem to be headed anywhere, but it’s a nice enough story—until you get to the ending. I don’t know if it qualifies as a “twist,” but I didn’t expect it. I found the ending sweet and extremely human. While I don’t want to give it away, it’s a really nice moment that reminds us that good science fiction isn’t about amazing technology, but humanity.

“The Poet” is a sweet little love story in a small town. B. A. Barnett spins a familiar story of a tongue-tied teenager trying to impress the subject of his desire with a poem that illustrates his unbridled love for her. While it’s an old convention, Barnett puts enough heart into it to make it interesting, and you root for Galen to get his girl.  The final terms he puts love into are rather enduring.