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

Aurealis #123, August 2019

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Aurealis #123, August 2019

"Renascent" by Pauline Yates

"Wreck Diving" by Joanne Andertson
"Big Heart" by L L Wohlwend

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Three stories featuring characters trapped in dangerous situations appear in the latest issue of this Australian publication.

"Renascent" by Pauline Yates is a gruesome science fiction horror story. The narrator is a prisoner of criminals who sell body parts for transplants on the black market. She is kept barely alive while they harvest her limbs and organs. Her only hope is the fact that she can, to a limited extent, project her consciousness into the minds of those who receive parts of her body. She struggles to control the actions of one of her tormentors, who has a hand transplanted from her. Her goal is to destroy the machine that keeps her alive.

The author creates a grim mood that holds the reader's attention. The narrator's mystical ability to enter other minds is difficult to believe, given the otherwise realistic tone of the story. The premise may also seem familiar to those who have seen horror movies about transplanted body parts retaining the memories of their donors.

In "Wreck Diving" by Joanne Anderton, a married couple visit the ruins of a starship destroyed long ago. Flashback sequences reveal how their marriage began to fall apart when the husband left for several months to work on an asteroid. Within the wrecked starship, they become separated from other tourists. They must find their way back in darkness before the life support systems of their spacesuits fail.

The scenes inside the starship are eerie and suspenseful. The story is an effective allegory for the disintegration of a relationship. The setting has the feeling of the near future, so it's disconcerting to find out that it's actually hundreds of years after the launching of the first starship.

An asteroid strikes Earth and creates a dying world of darkness and cold in "Big Heart" by L L Wohlwend. The protagonist is a young woman, barely surviving by working for the owner of a convenience store in exchange for food. The place is under constant military supervision, receiving its scant supplies by truck. Her adoptive brother comes up with a dangerous scheme to steal one of the supply trucks, leading to a violent battle.

The story contains multiple flashback sequences, which relate the death of the woman's mother, her escape from her mother's threatening boyfriend, and how she winds up in a foster home. Although these scenes create a richly developed character, much of their content is irrelevant to the plot.

Victoria Silverwolf has been binge watching the earliest seasons of Saturday Night Live lately.