Lightspeed #59, April 2015

Thursday, 02 April 2015 14:52 Martha Burns
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Lightspeed #59, April 2015

 
"The Universe, Sung in Stars" by Kat Howard
"We'll Be Together Forever" by Joseph Allen Hill
"The Ministry of the Eye" by Dale Bailey
"Quiet Town" by Jason Gurley

Reviewed by Martha Burns

In "The Universe, Sung in Stars" by Kat Howard, stars have guardians. The job of the guardians is to take care of those stars and to not interfere with their natural life spans. Yet when Vera discovers that stars can sing and need to be sung to in turn, guardianship becomes parental care. The story is rich in imagery, gentle in tone, and creates a realm that is both utterly other, yet also entirely the reader's own. Recommended.

Anthony and his girlfriend, Audrey, are at a relationship impasse in "We'll Be Together Forever" by Joseph Allen Hill. Should they move in together or not? Anthony is ready to commit and Audrey is unsure, but she's willing to go along with brewing a love potion out of herbs, blood, and a little spit. Their love is inflamed anew and since they've dabbled in a little black magic, it gets weird and oh so fun, for however odd Anthony and Audrey's behaviors become, each is grounded in the absurd behaviors we tend to think are legitimate expressions of devotion. This is a funny, sly, and satisfying reflection on romantic excess. I predict readers will eat it up. Recommended.

In the novelette "The Ministry of the Eye" by Dale Bailey, forty-five-year- old Alex is a lover of beauty in a grey, dour world. Bailey uses all of the usual tools--an oppressive government, a mysteriously hellish job, and betrayal--to good effect. You find yourself aching for Alex who cherishes a pretty piece of wood and a scrap of yellow silk in just the way a child loves such treasures. Since his love of beauty is forbidden, we know it will end poorly. Just as we get ready for the finale and wonder how Bailey will pull it off, Bailey gives a double-twist ending, one of whose twists makes sense as a plot device and nothing more. In short, the end doesn't live up to the rest of the story.

Bev is in the middle of housecleaning when Ezze stops by to take up space and complain. Today, she has something important to convey about the sea wall in their town that had been, up until then, just barely containing the sea. As the tension mounts in "Quiet Town" by Jason Gurley, we wonder what's going to happen to Bev, her son, and the town. We also wonder what may or may not be in the water. As it turns out, there isn't anything in the water. It's just rising. The story succeeds as an exercise in tension building, yet it's difficult to see the respect in which it's science fiction other than an offhand remark about ice cubes. Were it not listed as science fiction, I would only have praise for the story. The characterization is spot on and the dread is palpable. We each have a snippy Ezze in our lives and we've each been a patient Bev facing a crisis we're not sure we're up to facing.