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

Tor.com -- July 2018

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Tor.com, July 2018

The Nearest” by Greg Egan

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly

Reviewed by Mark Suplinskas

The Nearest” by Greg Egan

Kate, a detective, is assigned to a particularly brutal murder of a family, but the mother is missing. Kate tries tracking the mother down, but things rapidly become complicated. She enters a state where it’s not clear what’s real and what’s not. Who can she trust? Who is the enemy? And, why?

The story starts out well, leading the reader into the state that Kate is in where some people become ‘hollow’; That is, they lose their humanity. Kate, using her well-honed detective skills, begins to zero in on what is real and what is not.

However, and perhaps I’m just being picky here, the ending left me flat. I don’t want to give away the ending. But, it’s been my experience as a psychiatric nurse, that people can’t ‘think’ their way out of a psychotic state with logic, discussion, or observation. Why? Because their mechanism of insight is damaged too. Psychosis is a severe physical/chemical disorder of the brain. A flat tire cannot fix itself, especially when it is not aware it is flat. (pun intended)

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly

This story is told through the eyes of Saffron, the simple wife of a baker who has followed her husband, Danny, into captivity. Saffron is forced to be the food taster for a regent, nicknamed the Traitor King. He is the regent for an infant who will someday become king. But, of course, the infant dies. The Traitor King, as his name implies, is quite evil. He revels in terror and power.

Over the years, Danny has been working to perfect his confectionary creations. Each of his creations has a specific purpose, to bring back memories of good times or bad. I guess, in today’s terms, Danny’s confections are psychoactive. Some memories will make you mellow, others less so. Danny is confined to the castle kitchen while his wife, Saffron, is confined to the king’s table. They are never allowed to see one another or to contact each other in any way, yet they retain a deep bond of love. Danny’s only method of communicating with Saffron is through the memories brought forth by the confections he bakes for the Traitor King, as she must first taste everything the King eats.

How can Danny defeat this evil monster, using only memories, without harming his beloved wife? I found the story and the solution enchanting.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it is clever and well written. I enjoyed it very much and it is well worth the read.