Strange Horizons, January 9, 2017

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Strange Horizons, January 9, 2017

Bombyx Mori” by Kerstin Hall

Reviewed by Benjamin Wheeler

Bombyx Mori” covers the story of Cynae, who lives alone and spins silk from the cocoons of silkworms, and the other, more horrible things she does in the abandoned old house, which has blood covered walls. This leads up to ‘Chasm Eyes’ who comes in from the snow and the cold, demanding a satisfying story from her or else Cynae will come to a horrible fate.

This is a good story, even a recommendable story, but with advice to ignore the weird gender wordplay pedantry. The author states several times that Cynae is a ‘he or she’ but only ever uses ‘she’ and includes the reader in scenes in order to determine the gender of Cynae, which is never concluded to satisfaction. It is like an ornate decoration. The owner declares it has great meaning to it, but never tells us the meaning except in hints that lead nowhere and she never actually uses it for anything. I am also frustrated by a character who describes a tale involving: “…Gold-teethed pirates, dancing bears, great mountains made of porcelain, fish that spoke eight languages, cities ruled by benevolent plants…” which sounds much more interesting than the story we are reading now. It makes me wonder why the author did not write that story instead of this one. ‘Chasm Eyes’ had a great presence in the story and the foreshadowing of her was spot on. The menace and weirdness emanating from several characters and the love for mood and details overcame many of my problems with the meaningless wordplay.