"Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left" by Fran Wilde
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
Shimmer for September gives us four stories with a decided literary bent.
Fran Wilde starts out with "Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left." In it various characters start deciding that life would be better if they turned into trees. It starts out with Arminae, and other vignettes from this gentle treepocalypse are shown. Nice writing, but not much point to it and I can't really fathom what it hoped to achieve other than the idea.
"Shadow Boy" is about P.J., a girl whose life is intertwined with Peter—who may be Peter Pan or something else entirely—and who wants her shadow. Like Peter, P.J. is having trouble growing up and seems upset by the process. Lara Gray's story is filled with random events and conversations, but doesn't have much of a story behind it. P.J. is moderately interesting, but the story flirts with obscurity and other than a few implications of her unhappiness, doesn't go anywhere.
Ryan Row's "The Invisible Stars" is about Asunder, an alien trapped on Earth. Life is tough for him, partly because no one notices him at all. It's presumably a musing on homesickness, but the story is just a bunch of trivial incidents that don't add up to anything other than the fact Asunder is unhappy.
"What Becomes Of the Third-Hearted" by A. Merc Rustad is about a gentle end of the world, where people just disappear. Morgan has lost her spouse and daughter and remembers what her mother told her about people having three hearts—one for the things you loved growing up, another for people you care for, and a third, which seems to be pure metaphor. Lots of images and some interesting things in Morgan's backstory, but ultimately there's little actual story here.
I was disappointed in this issue. It consists of vignettes rather than actual stories and I generally don't care for vignettes. I also don't think it's particularly innovative or deep to have such unhappy people wallow in their own misery. Overall, these were just unmemorable and very slow going.
Chuck Rothman's novels Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate are available from Fantastic Books. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Temporally Out of Order and in the Digital Fiction Anthologies Cosmic Hooey and Quickfic Anthology 2.
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