Strange Horizons, May 3, 2021
Reviewed by Mike Bickerdike
Set in a future solar system, where the Moon and other planets have been colonised, the short story “Si Shou” by E. A. Xiong tells of a somatology ‘artisan’ who is engaged by a pianist from Mars for hand surgery. Much is made of the artisan’s absolute love of somatology. For those who don’t know, somatology is a sub-discipline of anthropology, concerned with the comparative measurements of the human body throughout evolution. In this story however, the author uses the term to refer to surgical modification and cybernetic enhancements. The story spends much of the time describing the pianist’s choices of classical music for recitals, and meanders through dense descriptions of other somatology projects that have been undertaken in the past. Unfortunately, none of this is especially captivating and the story struggles to maintain the reader’s interest. The story concludes with a moderately comic surprise, but this rather jars with the worthy, ‘purple prose’ that precedes it. Indeed, the prose style, with its long, dense sentences and liberal use of uncommon terms may not be that inviting for some readers.
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