Strange Horizons, January 7 & 14, 2013
Reviewed by Jared L. Mills
The first story of the new year from Strange Horizons covers some of the same ground from Margo Lanagan’s recent fantasy The Brides of Rollrock Island, the seal-to-human shape shifting selkie, but to lesser effect. It’s an eccentric tale about a young girl working at a family-owned restaurant who balances the pain of her selkie mother returning to the sea with her new friendship with another waitress. Sofia Somatar’s storytelling style owes a debt to Kelly Link’s magic realism, but lacks that author’s emotional wallop. A quick read that gets a little lost in its own naval gazing and one non sequitur too many, but your mileage may vary depending on your taste for quirk.
In “Inventory” a woman divulges the history of her sexual encounters from her teenage years forward, all the while revealing the effects of a world-changing epidemic. It’s a character-driven story that revels in detail, making the story that much richer and visceral. Carmen Maria Machado does a great job of giving the right amount of information while only hinting at the rest. Without giving too much away, the narrator’s sexual encounters become more desolate as the plague continues, but glimpses of joy can still be found in some of the couplings. It’s explicit, brutal and masterful in its depiction of the shifting distances between corporeal lust and human connection.