Strange Horizons — October 8, 2018

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Strange Horizons, October 8, 2018

“Asphalt, River, Mother, Child” by Isabel Yap

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

“Asphalt, River, Mother, Child” by Isabel Yap makes use of mythology to confront the violence associated with the war on drugs in the Philippines. Three innocent young people, all killed by a police officer, arrive in the underworld. They are unable to move on to the afterlife until the man who shot them confronts his actions. Alternating sections of the story depict the goddess of the underworld dealing with the new arrivals, and the policeman wracked with guilt over the deaths.

The author powerfully conveys her concern over the bloodshed tearing her native land apart. Although the story clearly places the blame for the slaughter on the police, the officer is depicted with empathy for his ravaged conscience. Readers unfamiliar with Filipino culture may struggle with the narration, which contains many Tagalog phrases. The author supplies a list of English translations at the end of the story. It would be helpful to read this first.

Victoria Silverwolf used to enjoy the pancit guisado served at the Philippine Connection in Knoxville, Tennessee.