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

Aurealis #95, October 2016

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Aurealis #95, October 2016

Running into the Rain” by Beth Powers

Breathing” by Leife Shallcross
Weapons of Last Resort” by James Milton

Reviewed by Kat Day

Running into the Rain,” by Beth Powers (what a great name!), begins with the protagonist, Greg, crashing through a window, evidently on the run from someone or something. We quickly learn that he has a ‘neurochip’ implanted at the base of his skull which records his movements and actions. He makes his way to an inn, hoping to give his pursuers the slip, but naturally things don’t quite go his way. This story runs the pretty well-worn tread of any number of action movies – the Jason Bourne series, Minority Report, elements of Robocop and Source Code – there’s an action hero, on the run, trying to figure things out, and discovering his employers are even shadier than he imagined. It’s an enjoyable action tale, and definitely a fun ride, but there’s nothing particularly original here. Perhaps I’ve just watched too many movies!

Breathing,” by Leife Shallcross, is a very different story. We meet Alix, who is living in some near-future society. Alix is travelling somewhere, anxious because she’s late. We see her collect her daughter safely from school, but there are hints that all is not quite as it seems. This is a cleverly written tale, which makes great use of imagery to drop subtle elements of conflict throughout the narrative. For example, early on we read: “Even now the stiffness in her sturdy little legs bothered Alix. It reminded her how lucky she was to have her.” This is a smart piece of writing – it immediately made me wonder how on earth stiff legs could be a good thing. And why were Aiko’s legs stiff, anyway? More details are gradually and gently revealed as we go along, but I was pleased that even jaded old me didn’t spot the final twist coming. A lovely piece of work, very thought-provoking and actually rather moving. Highly recommended.

Unlike the previous two science fiction stories, “Weapons of Last Resort,” by James Milton, is straight-up fantasy. Shepherd is a weaver, who is working his loom by moonlight to create a magical rat trap. It’s a routine task for him. Until he is interrupted. This is another story that makes good use of description – I particularly liked the idea of something “curdled in its own shadows” – and the characters, and the setting, are intriguing. When I started reading I thought it was going to turn into a fairly straightforward mage-battle, but in fact this story is a very different beast. I found myself carried along and wanted to know what was going to happen. Yet, again, I didn’t see the ending coming – and it’s a good one – the sort of ending that suddenly makes you rethink what you read at the beginning. A great piece of fantasy writing – recommended.

Kat Day writes the award-winning, non-fiction science blog The Chronicle Flask, which you can find at thechronicleflask.wordpress.com. She’s also recently started a fiction blog, at thefictionphial.wordpress.com.