“Cousin Entropy” by Michèle Laframboise
“Sunstrewn” by Murtaza Mohsin
“Twenty-seven Gifts I Saved For You” by Filip Wiltgren
Reviewed by Kat Day
This latest issue of this magazine of international science fiction contains three original short stories, hailing from Canada, Pakistan, and Sweden.
“Cousin Entropy,” by Michèle Laframboise, was originally written in French and appeared in Galaxies magazine. Translated here, it begins with the narrator commenting that they sometimes think that God burped out the universe and “then let it inflate like a balloon,” and goes on to speculate about a “meddlesome pair of cousins, Enthalpy and Entropy.” From there, without giving too much away, it becomes a tale of our universe’s gradual journey towards heat death. The physics feels meticulously researched, and this is an original and interesting reflection on the way things might go. The character of the narrator just about hangs onto enough humanity that it was possible to relate to them right through to the end. The story perhaps loses its way just slightly in the middle—I couldn’t help feeling it could have been shorter, although perhaps that’s an accurate reflection of the nature of the universe! All in all it’s rather beautiful, and the hardcore physics fans out there will certainly enjoy this.
“Sunstrewn,” by Murtaza Mohsin, begins with the main character lying in a sniper’s nest on a ruined tower. He is, we quickly learn, involved in a long, drawn-out conflict with someone called Abdul—they have travelled across space, regularly meeting to fight. During one such altercation, the city they’re in, on the titular Sunstrewn, starts to crumble, and they briefly cooperate before circumstances force them to oppose each other again. The editorial says that this story deals with the conflict between India and Pakistan, and perhaps I simply don’t understand that context well enough, but I struggled to follow the progression of the relationship of the two main characters from rivalry to friendship. The descriptions are gorgeous, though, and the religious reflections add to the slightly dreamy feel.
“Twenty-seven Gifts I Saved For You,” by Filip Wiltgren (himself a former Tangent reviewer!) begins with the narrator telling us that the gift they bought for “your first birthday away” was a plant incubator. This, and the title, sets up the structure of the piece: twenty-seven years and twenty-seven gifts, and the story behind and around them. This deftly avoids becoming a tedious list, and is instead a beautifully constructed and clever tale of hope. The ending is powerful and feels exactly right. Well worth a read.
Kat Day is an associate editor at pseudopod.org, writes a mixture of both fiction and non-fiction, and can be found generally hanging around on social media. You can follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask.