Clarkesworld #72, September 2012
Reviewed by Bob Blough
This issue has three very different and very satisfying stories.
First up is “The Found Girl” by the writing team of David Klecha and Tobias Buckell. Mr. Buckell, of course, has quite a few novels to his credit, but Mr. Klecha, as far as I know is newer. The story takes place after the transcendence of most of humanity. The only ones left behind are those who were too poor to be linked in to the network at the time of the uplift or too independent to accept it. Melissa is one of those street urchins who live in this post transcendent world. She and a group of other orphans are protected by “The Street." We first see her trying to rescue a robotic trash container from a “demon” called La Llorona. The street and various avatars are aspects of transcended humanity. The demon turns out to be something else entirely. Melissa, who is the self-appointed history teacher to the orphan clan, has to mature in order to deal with many aspects of the world that has been created by this new development. Her coming of age story is interesting although it does feel like a smaller fragment within a larger piece. The background of this world is interesting and the world building is impressive. I hope that the authors will continue Melissa’s story with future installments.
Narratives told in the second person are hard to pull off, however Helena Bell does an excellent job in “Robot." The robot in question is one produced by an alien culture to eat (painlessly) the dead tissue of patients too far gone to survive. The unnamed elderly human lady is giving the robot instructions for its behavior in her home. In the course of this short piece Ms. Bell has drawn a vivid portrait of this woman and her decaying mind/body. It is a story that uses the science fictional lens to discuss cancerous ailments, dementia and other aspects of getting old. This one is memorable.
The best story in this batch of good stories is “muo-ku’s Child” by Indrapramit Das. I have been impressed with his stories for a little while now, but this one is top-notch. Ziara crash lands on an alien planet and is taken in by an alien. The plot is familiar to many SF stories but the alien being encountered is quite vividly and impressively related. The lifestyle encountered by Ziara is so totally different that she has to be transformed to survive on the planet. muo-ka changes her metabolism completely in order to live there. Their moving if difficult to understand relationship becomes the arc in a strong piece about cultural assimilation through love and care for the foreigner. It speaks to the reality of dealing with the foreign that humanity must deal with in today’s globalized world. This is one of my favorite stories so far this year.
This is a great issue of Clarkesworld, well worth reading.
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