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

Strange Horizons, December 2010

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Strange Horizons, December 2010

“Lily” by Emily Gilman (12/6)
“Zookrollers Winkelden Ook” by Tracy Canfield (12/13)
“Salsa Nocturna” by Daniel José Older (12/20)

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

“Lily” by Emily Gilman, is the story of a man, John Murray, who is taking a train trip with his life’s work, an android he named Lily, and who he considers his daughter. He created her because of a promise made to Dolores, the woman he loves. This tale is the account of Lily’s first meeting with Dolores, and how they view one another. When the power goes out in the area, it affects Lily’s perceptions, and gives her deeper insight.

John has a past, and the story alludes to him being a wanted man. It’s not explained. Nor does it seem to be a concern. There’s the basis for an interesting story here, one that hasn’t already been done to death on Star Trek, but this isn’t it.

In “Zookrollers Winkelden Ook” by Tracy Canfield, Jason continues to receive email from his dead husband, Ethan. Just before his death, Ethan consented to the creation of a simulacrum, a process analogous to virtual cloning. Its purpose is to capture his mind, to allow him to continue writing after his demise. Many of the emails appear to have come from other simulacrums, unauthorized copies. Jason is upset by their receipt, but he misses Ethan, and doesn’t wish simply to block them.  Instead, he works with Ethan’s publishers to track down the illegal sims.  The publisher believes releasing the authorized sim is the best way to shut down the copies.  Jason agrees, but he can’t resist talking to Ethan’s sim. It’s a way for him to hold onto a bit of Ethan.  

I found this story disjointed and hard to follow. It was a slog to get through it. The characters didn’t engage me, and I didn’t find the premise believable. I think this tale might work, and even be interesting, but not in its present form.

“Salsa Nocturna” by Daniel José Older relates the tale of Gordo, an older musician down on his luck. Taking the advice of his daughter-in-law, Gordo finds employment as a kind of night watchman, keeping an eye on troubled and orphaned children while they sleep.  

While he watches over the little ones, Gordo is visited by ghosts, friendly spirits whose company he enjoys. He listens to their music and he writes it down. Sometimes, he even plays along. 

When one of his young charges, little Marcos, goes missing, Gordo is worried, and searches the building for him. Gordo finds Marcos and discovers a musical prodigy, but he’s not the only one who’s noticed. The spirits hovering around Marcos aren’t very nice.

I liked this story. It was a slow starter, but the voice was engaging and the character convivial. The easy reading carried me along to the point where the plot got underway. It had an ending that was satisfying.

This is the second month of Strange Horizons I’ve reviewed. In my opinion, it has more wild swings in quality than most other publications I’ve looked at. I’m just guessing, but I suspect the editors will forgive many other weaknesses for a voice they find interesting.