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

Clarkesworld #83, August 2013

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Clarkesworld #83, August 2013

 

Reviewed by Bob Blough

Clarkesworld has some hits and misses this month, sometimes within the same story.

I have very mixed feelings about Vandana Singh’s “Cry of the Kharchal.” It is a fantasy tale with SF trappings about a Queen who died 600 years ago. She returns in non-corporeal form to finish something left undone at her death. She is manipulating a young man who works at the modern hotel that was raised on the site of her former castle. It involves an intricate plot of numerous people being brought together during a sandstorm in which the queen stops time. It’s beautifully written (I don't believe Ms. Singh can write any other kind) but feels as though it's a small part of a much larger tapestry. The ending is rushed in order to bring a measure of closure to the characters, two specific steps that need to be taken to complete the plot arc are completely forgotten – and yet the desired ending occurs for the Queen. Characters and place and atmosphere are wonderful. The plot is glorious but rushed, compressed and unfinished. So both a hit and a miss.

“Shepherds” by Greg Kurzawa is a fantastically weird story. Is it SF? Fantasy? New Weird? I’m not sure. It starts out with the tones of the Old Testament by naming people Levi and Abel. Abel is a shepherd and speaks to his burning campfire. We eventually begin to see that this is not in the past but a far future. The world is suffering major depopulation as Abel travels toward his death. For that he must go to a convent. The setting is not as it seems, the convent is not as it seems and the biblical imagery used throughout is not as it seems. Mr. Kurzawa has a sinewy and subtle style of writing that agrees with this kind of tale. I liked this one and found it creepy and yet compelling.

The last story is fully SF, but I came away liking it much the least of the three. “Found” by Alex Dally MacFarlane takes place in an asteroid field orbiting an unknown star. The people living here in various asteroids were left by a colonist’s ship due to engine problems. The survivors on the intended planet are returning to save them. The protagonist is a “fluidly gendered” spice trader. The story is unbelievable (how can the trader eat so much of the wares she sells?) and it goes nowhere. This should have been an early draft of a far tighter story.

Clarkesworld continues to publish interesting fiction. This issue fills that bill beautifully.