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

Lightspeed #19, December 2011

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Lightspeed #19, December 2011

"The Sighted Watchmaker" by Vylar Kaftan
"The Parting Glass" by Andrew Penn Romine

Reviewed by John Sulyok

Umos has been left alone by the Makers. Roaming from one star-system to another, he sows seeds of life and watches them progress, grow intelligent. But his near omniscience -- made possible by myriad sensors and statistical analyses -- is not enough to answer one gnawing question: What is my purpose?

As he tries to understand his place in the universe, he watches a particular form of intelligent life, which seems somewhat familiar. The allegory is palpable, and the outcome expected. "The Sighted Watchmaker" by Vylar Kaftan reads straight, with little rising action and no surprises. While it is spotted with humor throughout, it is also hampered by nonsensical science-talk that only drags the story along and reaffirms that it is science fiction. It leaves one gnawing question: What is its purpose?

Andrew Penn Romine's "The Parting Glass" is a story we've heard a thousand times: a run-down man indulging in drink, unexpectedly reunited with an old love-interest, asked to do one more job for an old foe in exchange for the one thing he wants most of all; set in a future where such mundane things like "real wood" are rare to the point of being notable. It may not be a new formula, but Romine pulls it off swimmingly.

The prose flows, often indulging in future-speak (slang and cutoff words), and embraces the cyberpunk-noir motif to perfection. In a relatively short story, Romine is able to characterize, develop atmosphere, and create a vivid setting. And there's no shortage of bits (and bytes) of cyborg wetware.