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

Tor.com -- September 2015

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Tor.com, September 2015

“The Dogs of Athens” by Kendare Blake

“Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson
“Kingmaker” by Lindsay Smith
“The Pyramid of Krakow” by Michael Swanwick

Reviewed by Bob Blough

This was a very disappointing month for original fiction. Tor.com has published some of the best SF/F throughout the last few years, but this month seemed to print stories either out of series that were not worth the time unless you have been following the series, or standalone fiction that just didn’t work.

The first story was “The Dogs of Athens” by Kandare Blake. This is a YA tale about Artemis and her pack of dogs returning to a future Athens. The story concerns the goddess, Artemis, looking for other gods in the city while her pack of hunting dogs (all who were transformed from maidens into dogs by Artemis herself) wish to hunt prey. It is a revenge story of sorts but written with such pedestrian prose and lack of import that the idea goes nowhere.

“Please Undo This Hurt” is a character study of two people who have empathy for others and desire to help them but have such deep self-image problems that they can hardly stand up under the weight of sorrow they encounter. Seth Dickinson uses these unusual (for SF at least) characters to discuss the existential pain of life and those who try to rise above that pain by being kind and caring about others. It reads as a mundane story throughout its length until aliens are surmised at the end as the architects of the situation. In that respect it reminded me of “Occam’s Razor,” a story by Theodore Sturgeon that I very much enjoyed. I really wanted to like this one. The characters were unusual, the themes were interesting and extremely topical, but this story goes on far too long. By the end the characters have so inundated you with their worthless whining about life that I just wanted the story to end. It outstayed its welcome—it definitely needed a careful edit to make it work. An excellent idea whose execution failed.

“Kingmaker” by Lindsay Scott was not a story. It was an advertisement to buy the books in the author's series. These type of stories waste my time unless I am already in love with the series. I felt cheated with this advert.

Michael Swanwick is a fantastic author—one of the greatest in or out of genre for writing short fiction. “The Pyramid of Krakow” is, however, another part of a series of stories about an alternate Earth being destroyed by the Mongolian Wizard and the adepts who oppose him. Swanwick is usually facile enough to make each one a standalone (in fact the third story in this series—“The Day of the Kraken”—was one of my favorites of its year). He, however, does not do that in this story since it is a middle story where not much happens. It may be necessary to set up further intrigues for the overall series, but in this case the story is not very interesting in and of itself.

A very disappointing month. I hope the editors return to form in October.