Strange Horizons November 2010

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Strange Horizons Logo“Hokkaido Green” by Aidan Doyle
“Household Spirits” by C.S.E. Cooney
“Blood, Blood” by Abbey Mei Otis
“No Return Address” by Sigrid Ellis

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

In “Hokkaido Green” by Aidan Doyle, Hitoshi Watanabe is affected by the death of his brother. He quits his job and embarks on a pilgrimage to Shiretoko, a park in the northeast of Japan. There, he finds himself in conversation with a brown bear. Hitoshi wants to regain a lost family secret, a recipe for tonkotsu ramen. The bear agrees to help him, if Hitoshi is willing to pay the price.

I found this rough, not well tied together. It’s more notable for the setting than the story.

“Household Spirits” by C.S.E. Cooney is the tale of Hal and his son Jesseme. They’ve left Del, Hal’s wife and Jesseme’s mother, behind while they claim land on the frontier. It isn’t true frontier, but the remains of an ancient civilization. The nonhuman others killed themselves, rather than deal with the encroaching settlers. They left a few orphans, children attached to existing homesteads. When Hall and Jess meet Mimo, they care for him. They develop an affinity for Mimo and for Lichen, a girl at the neighbor’s place. Lichen isn’t treated well by the Gladstones. Nor is Mimo, if they catch him. Eventually, Jess makes a choice that changes both their lives.

I didn’t understand the motive for the others leaving their children behind. Nor am I usually a fan of stories told in letters or diary entries. Nonetheless, this tale charmed me.

“Blood, Blood” by Abbey Mei Otis is presented in two parts. Damia lives in a world where aliens visit, not in body, but in consciousness. The aliens are all over the map. They sometimes make decisions that control human lives, and other times act like goggling tourists. None of it seems to have much impact on daily living.

I didn’t need the credits to know I was reading a beginner story from a fledging writer. It’s loose and rambling, lacking in consistency and focus.

In “No Return Address” by Sigrid Ellis, the main character cares for her ailing mother, while receiving postcards from Amanda, her traveling daughter. Though she can’t mail her letters, she writes back to Amanda. At the same time, her mother has visions. Her mother insists that Amanda is battling her way across Europe, fighting the evil fey for domination of the world.

There are some nice aspects to the story, but the speculative element is irrelevant. The distant, emotionless battle with the fey could be replaced with Amanda feeding the homeless, or picking carrots, without affecting the plot in any meaningful way.