October 3rd & 10th, 2016
Strange Horizons, October 3, 2016
Reviewed by Seraph
“La Corriveau” by K.T. Bryski
Try to imagine the mists of time past, over 300 years ago, in the French province of Quebec, slightly before the British invasion. Imagine the wisp of a young girl, 16 years of age, with pale skin, long thin fingers, and all the fragile glory of the frontier. It’s a tale of beauty and tragedy, obscured by the mists of time, fouled by the whispers of gossips and superstitious folk. What remains of the truth? Who was Marie-Josephte Corriveau? What remains of her life, her legacy? Only a cruelly forged iron cage, one meant to torture and inflict far more than it is meant to contain, laid bare in a museum, surrounded by mirrors. If you look closely, you may even see yourself reflected inside of that cage. A reminder of a time far removed, a wilder, more cruel world. Then again, perhaps not so far removed, and perhaps no less cruel. That seems to be the message that Bryski has so artfully left for us. I am fascinated by History, and delight in peeling back the myths and legends in an attempt to find out what lives were really like. The truth behind the stories. So often, the truth bears little resemblance to the tale. Other times, the tales hardly do the past justice. And so I fear it is with Marie. Perhaps both tales are true, that of the loving mother and wife, and that of the brazen witch. Perhaps neither are fully true. And perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between, that a beautiful young girl had fallen deeply in love with a beautiful young man, and that when he was so cruelly taken from her, the love in her heart turned bitter. Perhaps all the men she killed were not in fact husbands at all, but men she held responsible for the death of her great love. Perhaps she married them only so that she could kill them.
For a story to mourn and wail as strikingly as the woman of which it tells, to bring so many unpleasant details about the cruelty of humanity so clearly into light, and to yet leave so much unsaid: this is mastery of a craft. Stunning beauty, beheld on a page. Do not overlook this story, for it is a story of all mankind, and has left me humbled and contemplative, both as a writer, and as a human being.
Strange Horizons, October 10, 2016
Reviewed by Seraph
“Timothy” by Philip Schweitzer
This is a world where death is but an inconvenience, or at least it used to be. There is little hint given as to when and where, but it is a world as foreign to me as mine would be to Marie or Frances, yet not truly so different at all. Perhaps that is well, as the story is tied less to the material world, and more to the human soul. As for the skill of raising someone from the dead, all you need is a tuning fork and some good cloth, or at least that’s how it used to be. Now, it’s more a bit of luck than a science. People have by and large moved on from the old ways, and embraced a new religion, one which frowns upon bringing the dead back to life, and it has become ever more difficult to bring anyone back at all, except for Frances. It is not overly difficult to imagine why. So strongly bound to this world, so much unfinished business. Desperately trying to resurrect Marie’s dead son, desperately trying to heal the gaping wound in Marie’s soul. There is much to be seen, in this story, of our own world, and the stages of grief. There is also much to be seen of hope, of desperation, and of faith. Not faith in some arbitrary religion, mind you, which really isn’t faith at all. Real, genuine faith, a belief in something greater and profound, something beyond this mortal coil. At the end, a peace. Perhaps not the kind of peace expected, but a peace all the same. The kind of peace that absolves one of grief and longing, of the things which tie us to our world. The kind of peace, perhaps, that will let a bereaved great-great-grandmother at last find rest.
“The Troll Who Hid Her Heart” by Jenn Grunigen
I’ve found a love for Strange Horizons, because of stories like this. This story has it all. Mythology, imagination, science-fiction, philosophy, psychology…. I love it. More than anything, though, it is imaginative. Genuinely, truly, imaginative. A world you can get lost in, the possibilities of it all. And yet, also somewhat mournful, as was the previous story. I love it like I love my food, a combination of flavors, like sweet and sour, or maybe a wide palate of savory spices to be sampled and lingered upon. And underneath it all, the thread of humanity that cries out to be heard, to be understood, to not be forgotten. Tragedy, like the almost-bitter notes of almond, hidden beneath the complex flavors of a virtual reality that is virtually indistinguishable from reality. Extinction, like the infusion of juniper and anise, that lingers beneath the grand flavors that first strike the palate, ever present, yet at times overlooked or unnoticed. Oh, absynthe, that greatest of muses, of which this story reminds me greatly. Which is to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it in all of its not-quite-as-hallucinogenic-as-I-was-expecting glory. It’s real, it’s earthy, it speaks to the heart, and I think I would rather like some more.