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

Fantasy Magazine -- September 2010

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Fantasy Magazine
September 2010

“Bloodlines” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“Stone Flowers” by Aidan Doyle
“Logovore” by Joseph F. Nacino
“Nine Bodies of Water” by Monica Byrne

Reviewed by Frank Dutkiewicz

“Bloodlines” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the story of a teenage girl and her family of witches. The women of our unnamed protagonist’s family are beautiful, magically gifted, and have a temper when it comes to men; an angry, crazy type of temper. The protagonist appears to be the exception to the rule in the family.  She’s sympathetic, has a limited magical ability, and in her own words is ‘potato bug ugly.’

The story centers around the protagonist and her two cousins. Elena, one of the cousins, is gifted, beautiful, and has just suffered the indignity of getting dumped by her boyfriend. Of course, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially one with supernatural talents.

The premise of “Bloodlines” is a lot like half of the Bewitched episodes I watched as a kid, but not as deep. It read too much like a teenager’s diary with dialogue thrown in. The protagonist was filled with self-pity and her days were largely uneventful. For a family of witches, they came off as one boring bunch. Too bad, because I would have enjoyed seeing what a wronged witch would be capable of.

If you’re the type of person who finds chatty teenage girls enchanting, then “Bloodlines” is the story for you. I, however, thought it was much ado about nothing.

“Stone Flowers” by Aidan Doyle is the tale of a forgotten god, Daisuke, who exists inside his crumbling temple. He’s lived for so long that he’s forgotten what his role on Earth is. Yoshiko, his only remaining companion, is in transition and soon will be moving on, but has prepared the lonely god a gift. Even a deity needs a purpose, and existence has little purpose if you are left in it alone.

Doyle has created a character who is isolated because of circumstances that were never clear to me. Daisuke comes off like an elderly man who’s the only occupant of a retirement home. You feel sympathy for him, but little else. The story never really carries through with its theme. It fizzled with the lack of motivation of its main character.

The protagonist in “Logovore” by Joseph F. Nacino is a word-eater, an English teacher at a Philippine university who lives on a diet of English words which he absorbs as people think and speak them. Words have different flavors as he hears them. Bad grammar and poor language are bitter and make him ill. Eloquent words leave him content and are rich in flavor. Foreign speech tends to make him sick. The word-eater meets new people, observes while he feeds, and runs into another of his kind while he lives his life in Manila.

“Logovore” is not your typical fantasy story. The premise is quite unique. But the author chose an odd way to tell it. The story had the feeling of a documentary. While reading it, the voice of the narrator from Wild Kingdom kept popping into my head. Fitting, considering the protagonist came off more like a prowling leopard in the savanna than a real person. It didn’t help that he never spoke (strange considering he was an English teacher). The story has titles that break up each scene, and they’re not very creative. “The Word Eater Meets His Match” was about as clever as they got.

The plot and protagonist wander from beginning to end. He meets people and interacts with them, feeding as they speak. He finds, then loses a girlfriend, meets then overcomes another eater, and acquires then quits a job. The protagonist never really takes action to move the story, instead becoming more of a prop for others along the way.

“Logovore” is an aimless, voyeuristic saga. Like a camera crew following a lost animal in the wild, it drifts about without any real purpose while the viewer waits for something to happen.

“Nine Bodies of Water” by Monica Byrne is about a woman named Alba who is struck with a flash of premonition at  life-changing moments. Alba is a poor Latin mother with a questionable immigration status, who lost her finger, and her job, in an industrial accident. Unable to find work, she becomes distraught and worries how she will care for her young son, Simon. Then a lucky lottery ticket changes her outlook. In a split second, nine possible futures are revealed to her.

With such a sudden change of fortune for a woman in desperate need of good luck, you might think “Nine Bodies of Water” would be an uplifting story. But the futures Alba sees are all bleak, each one dealing with an older version of Simon, and each ending in tragedy. For a woman who just won fifty million dollars, it appears someone was telling her she was destined to be miserable no matter what she did.

I had to read “Nine Bodies of Water” twice, not because I was so taken by it, but because I had to check to see if I’d missed any moral. Each short premonition appeared to be a warning to Alba, as if cashing in the ticket would have dire consequences for the heroine. Although Alba is wealthy in each mini-tale, I couldn’t make the connection on how her potential winnings would lead to the tragic events with Simon. It was like comparing apples to pine cones for me. Although the premise left me scratching my head, I did find the story intriguing. Ms. Bryne is a skilled writer and her tale held my interest as I was eager to see where it would go.

“Nine Bodies of Water” is a bit wet, but I found it refreshing to wade through. It was by far the best story in the issue.