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

Strange Horizons, Oct. 2006

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“Spinning Out” by Jamie Barras
“High Windows” by Lavie Tidhar
“Dead Man’s Holiday” by Nicholas Seeley

An adventure tale of the high seas with an SF twist, “Spinning Out” by Jamie Barras is the story of the crew of the Constance Marie, through the viewpoint of Joseph John. The ship isn’t your normal 19th Century sailing vessel, for it contains a device called the Weather Wheel that allows the ship to “shift” to alternate realities. Unfortunately, the Scaly-Jacks also possess Weather Wheels, and a crew of them is in pursuit of the Connie.

The well-paced story keeps you reading all the way through, even if you’re half-asleep. Barras certainly knows how to weave an adventure tale, and his characters—while many for a story this size—are an interesting lot. You can often tell who is saying what just by the dialogue alone. My only complaint is how it ends, which may leave some readers unfulfilled; although, it does leave an opening for a sequel.

An erotic SF tale about coming-of-age and finding one’s place in the solar system, “High Windows” by Lavie Tidhar is not for the easily offended. It may even be hard to swallow for the normally tolerant as well, not so much for the sex scenes, but for the unnecessary gratuity of them. The main character, nicknamed “Kid,” wouldn’t be interesting were it not for his uncanny knack for becoming a voluntary victim. The story’s title seems to refer to all the artificial “skies” that are part of the domed colonies on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. How that ties into the kinky sex is beyond my small brain to understand; however, it does feel like there’s some kind of connection going on between the carnality and what’s referred to as The Other. The writing, however, is great, from the pacing to the descriptions to the dialogue.  It’s worth a read if you think you can handle it.

“Dead Man’s Holiday” by Nicholas Seeley is zombie fiction at its finest. Kate is one of the few people on Earth who isn’t one of the walking dead. As long as you don’t interrupt the zombies’ routines, you’re fine. But if you do, well, that’s why Kate carries a .50 Caliber Desert Eagle. And after accepting a job from a Mr. “Zegna” to find his missing daughter, she’ll need that gun—especially now that her jerk ex-boyfriend is back from the dead.

Seeley shows Kate’s cynic personality through first-person POV and offers an interesting speculation regarding the struggles of just trying to make a living in a post-zombie apocalypse Middle East. Plus he throws in a couple twists and turns to keep things even more interesting. With excellent characters, good pacing, and some all-round zombie-slaying action, this story is far from boring.

[Tangent's review of the 17 Oct. 2006 Strange Horizons offering, “Winnowing the Herd” by Carrie Vaughn, can be found HERE.]