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

Clarkesworld #108, September 2015

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Clarkesworld #108, September 2015

“Cremulator” by Robert Reed

“Loving Grace” by Erica L. Satifka
“Preserve Her Memory” by Bao Shu
“The Algebra of Events” by Elizabeth Bourne
“The Occidental Bride” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Reviewed by Bob Blough

Robert Reed proves to be his usual twisty self in “The Cremulator.” By that I mean in a few words he can create varied and interesting stories that never quite go where you think they will. This one concerns various parallel worlds and how they are intertwined with the future. While the SF idea is given interesting twists, it is really a love story between three characters—a teacher, a student and a physicist. Reed has a fecund mind and you won’t be disappointed with this one.

Are dystopian futures this decade’s feelings writ large? Because here we are with another one. In “Loving Grace” by Erica L. Satifka the future is completely run by machines. People are chosen to be the wetware behind service drones. A woman is chosen to be employed in this way and the husband is left behind. This is his story. It involves the complexities of the human heart in waiting for someone to return home which always proves interesting, but the atmosphere is so unrelentingly bleak that I found it much too depressing.

A nifty detective story is at the heart of “Preserve Her Memory” by Bao Shu. The future is just a short way ahead of us and something called a “memory black box” records whatever someone is thinking while they are dying. The detective, Jiang Yong, must discover why the major star, Ye Lin, committed suicide. It is a satisfying detective story. I hope for more with this character.

“Probability Engine” by Elizabeth Bourne has all the hallmarks of my favorite kind of SF—one of which is being narrated by alien beings. We are thrown right into the alien situation from the beginning without much to go on, so that the interest is putting all the pieces together to assimilate what is going on. Unfortunately, the aliens reach an alien planet where the beings walk on two legs and communicate with sound waves and all the excitement that I began the story with dissolved. Unfortunately, it turns into a pretty standard alien contact story.

A love story couched as an espionage tale on future Earth is the basis of the story by Bejanun Sriduangkaew. “The Occidental Bride” is an excellent piece of fiction describing a future when the occidental world has been destroyed and its scientific bioterrorists have been taken captive. Heilui chooses an occidental scientist as her bride for reasons unknown. This story examines the ramifications of that choice. Sriduangkaew is usually much too ornate a writer for me to enjoy her intricate stories, but in this one she has reigned in her profligacies and delivers just the right amount of frisson with the language to make it alien rather than opaque. Good job.