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Month: December 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, December 16, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, December 16, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 18, 2019

“Flags Flying Before a Fall” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu

“Flags Flying Before a Fall” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu is a strange tale. Roughly, it follows a nearly unidentified main character living in a world where they die constantly, only to be resurrected by a tree that their brother won from professionally rolling down a hill. (I wish I could have that make more sense, but I can’t.) After this sport is outlawed, the protagonist is forced by their family to pretend at success to hide the money the brother sends back. Later, when the brother comes back at an inopportune time, he learns the truth and leaves, which ultimately sends the protagonist on a quest to find their lost sibling.

The story itself was hard for me to follow. I feel like there’s some sort of backstory or mythology I’m missing out on to make the detached external narration easier to handle, which is a shame.

That said, the language and the poetry of the prose is beautifully done. The story spends so much time stuck in the emotion and inner workings of the protagonist, despite their mother’s constant reinforcement that they need to avoid emotion, that a lesser writer would’ve fumbled and failed at the attempt. Ize-Iyamu, however, really manages to keep those hooks in despite it all.

In the end, despite my disconnect with background of this story, the raw emotion delivered through accurate, beautiful prose makes this a story worth reading.

Review: Strange Horizons, December 9, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, December 9, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 11, 2019

“Into the Eye” by SL Harris

“Into the Eye” by SL Harris is a stunning depiction of our reality after the Old Gods rise. Set in the far future, Earth is now flooded and filled with chattering madmen and ruled over by these horrific beings. The only ones to escape this fate are those who were either off-world or maintained the psychological fortitude in the face of Cthulhu and its brethren to keep going. The main character, Sal, is the latter. A pilot during humanity’s last stand against madness, Sal watched the world die, but managed to steer away, the only surviving ship in the human fleet.

The story revolves around a man, Captain Moore, who has been to the center of the universe and found Azathoth—Lovecraft’s creator god—sleeping. Waiting. Like Sal, Moore is the only survivor of his failed mission and comes back, having spent ten years alone, working through a plan to get away from the madness. With that in mind, Moore assembles a crew and together they head to Azathoth to escape this damned universe for another seen only in fevered images during Moore’s time near the sleeping god.

Overall, the story is incredibly well written, the integration of the Lovecraftian mythos with a far future setting works seamlessly, and Harris develops very interesting, empathetic characters that you root for by the end.

My only real gripe with the story is the end. It sort of stops and leaves us wondering at the conclusion, a nagging feeling of hope warring with the blatant horrors of this universe. In another story, without the weight of the Cthulhu mythos driving it forward, I think this would’ve worked quite well, but I can’t help but feel like it reads as the end of a chapter in a book than the end of a short story.

That said, it’s a pleasure to read and I’d recommend folks give it a shot, especially if you like new takes on Lovecraft’s madness.

Review: Strange Horizons, Dec. 2, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, Dec. 2, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 2, 2019

“The Garden’s First Rule” by Sheldon Costa

“The Garden’s First Rule” by Sheldon Costa is both beautifully haunting and terrifying at the same time. The story takes place in a semi-modern world where children can be sold, or sell themselves, to a long-term art installation called the Garden. In the Garden, these children are given a seed and tied to a frame. Over the next years, that seed will grow inside them, slowly changing them from a human to some sort of weird human-plant hybrid.

The story itself follows one of these children, Eli, who convinces his parents to sell him to the Garden because of the abuse he suffered at home in the wake of his sister, Ava, being shipped off to war. Eli is happy in the Garden, but when his sister shows up one day and sees him, his world is turned upside down as old memories flood back.

The interesting part of this story is the perspective. Costa takes the time to illustrate how some of the other children fight and struggle against their planting. Even Eli sees the pain they experience in a way that makes you think, maybe, he doesn’t actually want to be there. However, every time Eli comes back to the present and focuses on his life and his long-term goals—going to seed and spreading out over the world—it’s clear Eli is a true believer.

Ultimately, I think that’s the scariest part of this story. It feels like the manifesto of a radicalized soldier, which makes the face off with Ava, a recently returned soldier with clear signs of PTSD, the more meaningful. Great story and well worth a read.