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

Strange Horizons, 30 January 2006

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“Portrait of Ari” by Mary Robinette Kowal

In “Portrait of Ari,” Mary Robinette Kowal presents the reader with vivid imagery and some very tight descriptive passages.  She gives us a nightmarish scenario which hooks the reader in quickly, as reality flickers back and forth between two possible outcomes.

Unfortunately this isn’t enough to carry the story alone, and the ending is a little predictable and anticlimactic.  But to Kowal’s credit, she has carried a single encounter between two characters successfully, without unnecessary padding or skimping on the detail.  Technically this story is fine, though the conclusion could show improvement.

In comparison to an early draft of this story on her personal website, Kowal has undergone a remarkable amount of self-editing, and displays a great deal of discipline for an emerging writer.  One to watch?