“Ootheca” by Mario de Seabra Coelho
Reviewed by Seraph
Bilal has cockroaches for teeth. That’s how this starts. If you haven’t thought about just how utterly disgusting and frankly painful that is, don’t worry: the author has you sorted, and that imagery constitutes pretty much the high point of the whole affair. It just goes downhill from there. No grim or grisly detail is spared in the city of Almagris, a horror-filled realm lost to arbitrary and capricious gods set in an indeterminate future. Half-realized attempts at social justice commentary and what amounts to nearly 7,200 words worth of toxic relationships, suicide, and rampant misery leave you wishing you just hadn’t read it in the first place. For once, the longest list of content warnings I have ever seen attached to a story feels not only understated, but inadequate. I won’t tell you that it’s poorly written, because that’s untrue. Within the confines of the subject matter, it is paced reasonably, vividly descriptive, and neither overstates for shock value nor understates for effect. I just simply wish I had never read it in the first place, and I suppose that is nothing more than personal preference.