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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Uncanny Magazine #9, March/April 2016

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Uncanny #9, March/April 2016

Love is Never Still” by Rachel Swirsky

The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar
Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man” by Max Gladstone
The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval
The Artificial Bees” by Simon Guerrier

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

The 9th issue of Uncanny contains mostly fantasy stories, which ranged from so-so to good.

Love is Never Still” by Rachel Swirsky

I cannot classify this as science fiction and struggle to say its fantasy in the way we normally envisage it. It’s the tale of a sculptor who creates his ‘perfect’ ivory statue of a woman and prays to Aphrodite to breathe life into it. He soon comes to discover that having his wish granted is hardly the end of his problems.

I found this a difficult read and not one that everyone will enjoy or appreciate. The author’s command of English and her vivid prose was exemplary, but it failed to immerse me in the story as it told the tale from multiple perspectives, all in the first person and present tense. The story wove the classic Greek myth of the love triangle between Aphrodite, Ares and Hephaestus with the original tale of the sculptor.

The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar

A fantasy story of Rajesh, who grows girl blossoms in the Queen’s royal garden and who also collects shadows. Each blossom contains the spirit of a girl, which brings solace to those who have lost a daughter. The Queen owns the blossoms and she may do with them as she wishes, much to the ire of Rajesh. Dare he try to steal the Queen’s shadow to protect his blossoms?

This fantasy embodies a flavor of India. A strange read, but a pleasant one nonetheless.

Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man” by Max Gladstone

This myth-like fantasy tells the story of the crusty giantess Thrull and how she managed her encounter with the ‘Askin' Man’. Obliged by custom to help any castaway guest she at first falls victim to the Asking Man’s manipulations. Can she find a way to turn the tables before he takes everything?

I found that once I progressed beyond the opening, the story began to hold me in its grasp. Written in a beguiling style, the story-telling had a suitable feel of age about it.

The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval

A fantasy about a wolf changed to a boy and befriended by a mysterious old woman wise in the ways of being a changeling. The boy finds himself out of place and time, blessed now with human reasoning, but forever pulled back to his old wolf pack. Would the woman risk it all to help the boy adapt to his human side or find a way back?

For me this was an easy, pleasant read as the author pulled me into the yarn. I wanted to know how the boy would fare. I recommend this story.

The Artificial Bees” by Simon Guerrier

Simon’s flash science fiction story is set in the distant future where all the creatures are extinct and many are replaced with artificial ‘life forms’. But do the bees still have to sting in order to continue their role in the gardens? The visitor to the garden poses this question as we explore this strange alternative future world.

As flash fiction I found this story works well, it quickly engages the reader and makes us think about this short glimpse at a world without ‘natural’ life and asks the question, What role will humans play here?