Doll Crimes by Karen Runge and Power by C. S. Alleyne

Today, I’m reviewing two recent releases from Crystal Lake Publishing. I originally wasn’t planning on purchasing either of them, but immediately before Doll Crimes was published, its author, Karen Runge, was brutally attacked by poachers in a nature reserve. I felt the least I could do to help support her was pre-ordering a copy of her book.

Power is a short story that cost only 99 cents, and since I had an Amazon digital credit for that amount which was about to expire, I thought why not give it a try? Continue reading

This House of Wounds by Georgina Bruce

Several reoccurring themes emerge in this collection. Many stories reference Alice in Wonderland, as well as blood, doors, smashed mirrors, the beach, sisters, unreliable memories, madness, dreams, movies, men and women in conflict, doppelgangers, metamorphosis, people with dog masks, and out-of-body experiences. Also, several of the stories make references to the cover image. While the repeating images would normally feel repetitious to me, they don’t here, taking on thematic tones. It’s actually repetitious in a good way. The stories also make references to each other on several occasions, so many of them take place in the same world. Continue reading

Forward Part 2

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Forward is a collection of short science fiction stories available for free download if you’re an Amazon Prime member, much like Amazon’s earlier horror collection Disorder.

“Ark” by Veronica Roth is a retelling of the Noah’s Ark story. Earth is being evacuated due to an asteroid named Finis and a team of people are putting DNA samples of plants and animals aboard a spaceship headed for another planet. Continue reading

Forward Part 1

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Forward is a collection of short science fiction stories available for free download if you’re an Amazon Prime member, much like Amazon’s earlier horror collection Disorder.

Andy Weir, who became successful after self-publishing his novel The Martian, provides a short story titled “Randomize”. Present-day computers can’t actually generate random numbers, just pseudo-random numbers. In this story, quantum computers disrupt the casino industry because they’re able to figure out what the pseudo-random numbers are. Continue reading

Asimov’s September/October 2019

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“In the Stillness Between the Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera takes place aboard a city-sized generation ship. Our viewpoint character is a psychotherapist who is brought out of stasis early to help a fellow passenger who experienced nightmares while in stasis and continues to hallucinate a shadowy monster that lurks on the edge of her vision. The ship is kept minimally lit to save energy, adding to the spooky atmosphere. Add in a creepy nursery rhyme and a malfunctioning ship and you’ve got a great scary story just in time for Halloween. I also liked that the ship’s computer had a personality. I’ve got to say I’ve always loved a good haunted space ship story. This is my favorite story this issue.

Continue reading

Taty Went West by Nikhil Singh

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“The Dead Duck Diner capsuled a corner just two fingers short of the waterfront. It gleamed like the wet fin of some imaginary car, all sleazy chrome against the fast-forward decay of the esplanade. Festooned with rotisserie jungle chicken, pink-on-green neon, and loud checkerboard trim, it bubbled with all the indigestible traffic from the strip. You name the parasite, and their umbilical leavings would be smeared along the linoleum countertops: robo-jox, the bitchdoctors, all the sailor drek, cyborg love bunnies, bible jerkjumpers, jewel shifters, soldier camp dropouts, alien trannies, cannibal hobo freak shows, keyboard cowboys, jungle mummies, the whole carnival sucked through the place like a vacuum cleaner and gathered like gunk in the filters.” Continue reading

The Best Scarlet Ceremony Ever!

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I’m about a month late getting to this, but back in September, Drabblecast released their 415th episode, “The Best Scarlet Ceremony Ever!” written by Shaenon K. Garrity and narrated by Renee Chambliss. You can read/listen to it here.

This is like Christmas come early for me. Not only did my favorite podcast release an episode written by my favorite comedic writer, but it’s also read by my favorite narrator! It doesn’t get much better than this. Continue reading

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

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In the world of The Black Tides of Heaven, children are born without gender. They usually choose whether they want to be male or female by the time they’re in their mid- to late teens. Some children get their gender as young as three and some don’t decide until after their teens. There’s a vague reference to this involving a trip to the doctors, so this seems to be a world in which being trans is the norm. It creates an interesting effect since readers won’t know which gender, if either, a character will pick once they get older. Continue reading

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

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When we first meet Aqib, he’s taking the prince’s cheetah for a walk. We learn he is charged with taking care of the royal menagerie. He’s a member of the privileged class due to being a distant cousin to royalty. He’s also a bit of a snob and disdainful of the working class.

Aqib meets a foreign soldier named Lucrio who speaks in modern slang. This pulled me out of the fantasy world for a moment, but I soon learned that he spoke this way to indicate that he’s lower class and he learned to speak Olorumi from sailors. Lucrio’s native language is Latin (or a language very similar to it). He comes from Daluçan which is a land reminiscent of ancient Rome.

The two fall in love, although there are obstacles to their romance including Aqib’s homophobic brother, pressure from Aqib’s family to marry a high-born woman to raise the family’s status, and the fact that homosexuality is forbidden by Aqib’s religion.

The author sometimes doesn’t put dialogue in quotes or suddenly summarizes what was said, which is an interesting style. The story is also told out of order, but there’s a reason for this that becomes evident towards the end. The surprising reason the book is titled A Taste of Honey isn’t revealed until the end either.

There’s a lot of great world-building here. Olorumi is an interesting place where physics and math are considered women’s work. Magic gets introduced to the story towards the end. We learn certain people have supernatural abilities and we meet the Ashëans who are referred to as gods because of both their magical power and their high level of technology including holograms. The sudden introduction of magic and technology into the book towards the end was a bit jarring, but I think the author pulled it off.