Strange Horizons, February 6, 2017
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
Set in what appears to be either a present or very near–future Cambodia, this short little horror tale revolves around two sisters, Sopha and Dari. Sopha is a haunted child, able to see the aps (apparitions), or ghosts she and other families must keep at bay by various means. One day–some thirteen years later and where we learn that Sopha is now long out of the picture (she had either been taken from her hut or had up and disappeared on her own, and is now presumed long dead)–a foreign film crew arrives to interview several from their village for a documentary film. Ere long two of the film crew have been torn to bits by what we know to be one or more of the vicious, hateful ghosts.
Dari–knowing the ways of ghosts and their haunts–is now brought to remembering the time she and Sopha dared to sneak into a banana orchard, said orchards believed to be haunted. It is this same orchard where she now (with help from her translator and the foreign film crew, eager to track down the possible killer of two of their filmcrew) finds Sopha’s intact corpse. More would be telling, answering questions as to the whys and wherefores surrounding Sopha’s odd gifts as a haunted child, the nature of the murdering ghosts, the true reason Sopha suddenly went missing long ago, and how her corpse has remained intact after so many years. The author provides a proper measure of local color for backdrop as we see the lives of poverty many of the rural villagers lead on one hand set against the silhouette of a power plant in the distance. This backdrop, while effective enough, is not a new one, so kudos to the author for her wisdom in keeping the horror elements front and center, and how they affected the life of one haunted little girl.
Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award six times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV. He lives in Kansas City, MO.