“Takes a Lot of Hate” by Mike Carey isn’t a short story but rather an excerpt from the third Castor novel. Carey explains in his introduction that it does not appear in the final version of the novel. In it, Felix Castor is an exorcist investigating a murder. He’s looking for a man who was on the scene, Joseph Onugeta. Finding Onugeta, however, is not easy, and it’s not clear what Castor may be able to obtain once he finds him. This tale succeeds in building up a dense atmosphere and is worth reading to acquire a taste of the longer works.
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In "Someone Else’s Paradise" by Igor Teper, Leon is just about to have dinner in his house in the desert when a stranger, Abek, appears on the horizon out of nowhere and asks Leon if his house is his paradise. In the beginning, Leon is skeptical, but as their conversation goes on, reality starts to blur. "Someone Else’s Paradise" presents an interesting discussion of possible modes of existence. The story succeeds in presenting a peculiar clash of real and unreal, and their possible reversal. Subjective and objective reality quickly and dizzyingly switch places in a nightmare of the self. The eerie ending exemplifies the strength of the philosophical argument.
“The Mechanism” by I. C. Johnson provides a science-fiction setting to a tale about trust, difference, and identity easily applicable to a contemporary one. Rehia and Chanya are the only humans to work on a freighter to Mars. Rehia is a cyborg, and, like all cyborgs, she is a woman. Despite emancipation, cyborgs are increasingly segregated, but while she may be a little different from humans, she’s not that different. She starts having feelings for Chanya, her superior. And alone in a freighter, unbridgeable differences may become less so. This story convincingly sketches the relationship between Rehia and Chanya, and adds a surprising twist at the end which prevents it from becoming commonplace.
Narrated in the first person, “As the Crow Flies” by Dave Hoing demonstrates how well narrative can provide rich atmosphere. Yinnie and her Grandfather are good friends. Grandah is a crowmaster where crows are used to send messages in the remote region where they live, and he is training Yinnie to become one too. Both have a gift, the augraam, that helps them communicate with the crows and ply them to their will. However, the gift is a burden to Yinnie’s mother, Ana, who feels separated from her relatives. But gifts can prove to be a matter of perspective. The setting is original, and the characterization conveyed vividly. The perspective on change and immobility provided by the old man has the added charm of his ironic and humorous personality.