Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Aurealis #81, June 2015

E-mail Print

Aurealis #81, June 2015

"Spare Parts" by Mathew Russell
"Sprawl Rat" by Dann Lewis

Reviewed by Jason McGregor

Aurealis is based in Australia and is focused on local writers. This month's issue provides two stories (as well as unreviewed interviews, articles, reviews, and other non-fiction).

"Spare Parts" by Mathew Russell

This is a tale of human/machine hybrids and machines run amok. Scenes of the protagonist having crashed in an effort to escape a space factory that's become a war zone alternate with scenes of his girlfriend/tech trying to figure out what's caused an android to trash another one and other events leading up to the protagonist's attempted escape. The story would have probably generated pretty good tension (it's aiming to be a sort of horror story) but I immediately knew the motivation for the attack and I knew the fundamental ending of the story after perhaps the second iteration of the sounds the crashed protagonist was hearing. However, I thought there would be a more plausible mechanism for the attack (this is basically impossible) and, while a specific detail of the ending was much better than what I had in mind, I feel the story was willfully misleading in describing the sound as having two taps before a drag. There are other issues, such as the factory intentionally having a minimal human presence but feeling like there were only the three characters (a manager-type appears briefly), the girlfriend not being developed to the point where the reader would be sufficiently worried about her fate (ironically, the protagonist is even less developed but is the POV), and a sort of roughness at the sentence/paragraph level such as an effective, if ironic, line about a Rorschach test coming in the middle of a paragraph rather than at the end, but those first two were the most serious.

"Sprawl Rat" by Dann Lewis

This is a cyberpunk tale written in a sort of cut and pasted fashion as the narrator seems to swim through a viscous ocean of sensory gunk and we seem to wobble between scenes of a father mourning the loss of his wife by abusing his son, the son in his video game world, and the son and his aptly-named Buddy hanging out, with the whole being driven by ever-increasing violence. Some may find this overwritten; others may find it vividly and densely described. Some may find it frustratingly indirect and jump-cut; others may find it artful. I can't imagine anyone finding it particularly fresh, though, but I suppose the title conflating William Gibson and a common phrase (which discordantly brings Kevin Smith to mind, as well) indicates that's not the objective.

I was excited to try an SF magazine from the Land of Egan (not that I was expecting an Eganesque magazine, but was hoping I would see an Australian mountain supporting Egan Peak), but was disappointed by this issue (Egan still seems sui generis).


Jason McGregor's space on the internet can be found here.