Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
“Elsa's Spheres” by Marina J. Lostetter is an emotionally powerful tale of bereavement set in the real world after the discovery of mystical vibrating spheres on Caño island. After Elsa's death, the spheres that so fascinated her become an inextricable part of Amir's life, filling the graveyard where he visits Elsa's grave. Desperation drives the main character and the reader all the way to the dramatic finale and the final stage of loss.
In “High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity,” Alex Shvartsman brings us another delightful comedy set in a pawn shop run by Sylvia and her grandmother. When Sneaky Pete pawns a pandora's box, its concealed contents draw plenty of unwelcome attention from both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts, culminating in a dangerous face-off that the women must resolve quickly in order to protect their establishment. Once again, Alex Shvartsman's comedy is bright and direct with clever dialogue of both the inner and outer sort. Readers familiar with the first story will especially enjoy the reappearance of the Tooth Fairy and the sidelong reference to Cthulhu.
“Big Al Shepard Plays Baseball on the Moon” by Jamie Todd Rubin begins with Big Al's funeral, where his fellow astronaut relates Big Al's head injury and the legacy it almost destroyed. The layers of story within a story and nonlinear telling gives this alternate history tale an interesting progression. Baseball fans will get the most out of this speculative biography, but there is plenty of science fiction to satisfy the average reader.
In “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” by Van Aaron Hughes, Jordan Hudson discovers that his junior high bus stop is disconnected from the real world. Because no one else seems to remember or suffer the physical consequences of what happens in the Unreal Forest, Jordan at first feels as if he can do anything he wants, but soon finds himself wondering if his actions matter in other, more insidious ways. By blending the real and the unreal, this insightful coming of age tale explores the moral quandaries that arise when actions do not trigger overt consequences. The format provides a tidy package that follows from the title, yet nonetheless tells a linear story.
“Into the Desolation” by Catherine Wells follows Abel, a teenage motel clerk who feels inexplicably drawn to one of the motel guests and her plans to enter the Desolation, an unstable area that shifts unpredictably through time, causing a good third of its pilgrims to disappear. Unfortunately the plot is weakened by mushy character motivation and a lack of character conflict. Overall the piece comes off as oversimplified and unoriginal.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.
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