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

Clarkesworld #145, October 2018

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Clarkesworld #145, October 2018

The Miracle Lambs of Minane” by Finbarr O’Reilly

Sparrow” by Yilin Wang
When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller
Facecrafter” by Anna Wu
“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer

Reviewed by Mariam Melikadze

Finbarr O’Reilly’s “The Miracle Lambs of Minane” is set in a world recovering from famine and ecological disaster. The story depicts a repressive and religious state that prioritizes population growth over individual rights. The government organizes “famine parties”social gatherings for rural women to meet nice urban boys. Told from the perspective of a mostly naive narrator, the story depicts Mad Moll’s struggle against this regime to protect women’s rights to govern their bodies. A wonderful read.

I was not a fan of Yilin Wang’s “Sparrow.” The story reads like a tired trope depicting the sad fate of laborers (in this case, a window washing girl in Chongqing) losing their jobs to automation. There is nothing new or fresh about the narrator’s perspective; the story feels forced and the emotions ring hollow.

But Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” more than made up for other shortcomings in this month’s issue. This incredible, beautiful story plays with a wide spectrum of emotions: joy, frustration, fear, curiosity, hope, sadness. It describes scale-clad and tailed lizard-like beings that inhabit the post apocalyptic wasteland that is left of Earth. The tribes are constantly struggling for survival, running away from monsters and natural disasters that dog them at every step. The narrator, as the “Blessed” of the tribe, must protect his kind by hunting down “ghosts”—remnants of past human technologies that these beings have all but forgotten about. This is a story about standing up to one’s fears, questioning one’s beliefs, finding light in darkness, hope in despair and a way out from seemingly inescapable circumstances. I was mesmerized by the barren landscape and complexity of the characters. The narrative flowed beautifully with dreamy sequences that were almost poetic. I know I’ll be coming back to this story many times.

Anna Wu’s “Facecrafter” is a pleasant read, although it doesn’t quite live up to its promise. It starts off as yet another story describing a post-nuclear holocaust world where people live in underground shelters. However, the story quickly expands to encompass ancient mythology, art history, virtual reality, genetic engineering and higher-dimensional beings. While it was fun to read through such a mixed-bag of concepts, the narrative feels too rushed, the characters too undeveloped and the worldbuilding not quite real enough for me to feel invested in the story.

In Suzanne Palmer’s “Thirty Three Percent Joe” a disillusioned soldier is seeking a hero’s death in order to finally gain his mother’s approval. But the smart cybernetic implants that make up 33% of his body bond together to save him from his own death wish. This story mixes in humorous elements with heavier messaging around the futility of war. Overall, a very enjoyable read with a heart-warming ending.