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

Lightspeed #68, January 2016

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Lightspeed #68, January 2016

“Maiden, Hunter, Beast” by Kat Howard
“Beyond the Heliopause” by Keith Brooke and Eric Brown
“Secondhand Bodies” by JY Yang
“The Savannah Liars Tour” by Will McIntosh

Reviewed by Bob Blough

Four original stories as usual – two SF and two Fantasy. The SF stories take the prize this month.

“Maiden, Hunter, Beast” is told by three narrators – a unicorn, a maiden and the hunter of the unicorn. It is set in the milieu of a large contemporary city. But even with an interesting twist about unicorn lore it is a rather minor story. That said, minor Kat Howard is often enjoyable. This one is enjoyable but not very memorable.

“Beyond the Heliopause,” however, is a deeper and better story. It concerns Suzanne, a reporter in the not too distant future. She finds out that her father is dying but even more devastating to her is that he has lost his faith in Christianity which was his bedrock through her life. She is not a believer, but her father’s lapse concerns her. At the same time she is requested to go beyond the orbit of Pluto to the “heliopause project” which is run by her ex-husband to report on major findings there. These two items overlap, of course and what Keith Brooke and Eric Brown have created is a very warm scenario with faith and sense of wonder as the themes. It reminded me of a Clifford Simak story, but somehow just missed the mark for excellence by not allowing the warmth of the story to interact with the sense of wonder. Though it comes to an end it does not really have an ending that satisfies.

The viciousness of near future society and the three major characters caught within that society makes “Secondhand Bodies” highly interesting. JY Yang has created two young people in the top 1% of the world. Agatha and Aloysius are careless and cruel. In this future the wealthy wish to swap their bodies for beauty while the poor wish to swap their bodies for money. Agatha, as heartless as any character I have read, must make her next swap illegally and is brought to the right doctor by her cousin Aloysius. She decides that she wants to meet the woman, Maryam, who is to swap bodies with her. Agatha falls in love with her. Complications of a nefarious and hard-hearted type follow. The characters are excellently handled. Agatha is blind to her cruelties and since the story is told from her perspective we see that she doesn’t see or understand this, thus we can understand her while loathing her at the same time. The other two characters, Aloysius and Maryam, are just as nicely drawn. Very well done – but written with a scalpel more than a pen.

Will McIntosh is a writer I usually enjoy quite a bit. “The Savannah Liars Tour” is a simple tale of a time when the living can visit the dead (no explanation is given) and a 40 year-old man cannot give up visiting his first love from 20 years in the past. In the interim he has married another wonderful lady who is asking him to give up his trips to the dead. There is nothing surprising about what occurs and it seemed a little flat and cloying to me. I hope I will enjoy his next work more.

Definitely a plus on the SF side this month.