Review of “Bullies” by Damien Krsteski


For months, Jon has been tracking down the game identities of the boys who have been bullying him in school. He promises them cheatware, which is supposed to enhance the prizes they win. In exchange, they lock him out so their paths with never cross, either in Brutal Assault or any other portals in the virtual reality “Welt.” Of course, the cheatware is actually Jon’s revenge, with which he hopes to incapacitate the real-life bullies.


Author Damien Krsteski has created an intriguing alternate world within an alternate world. Jon uses “smart specs,” which include an AI therapist. The smart specs tell him when he’s late for his history class and where the class is located. When he leaves school because he says he isn’t feeling well, the smart specs tell the school and his parents. They also purchase a tram ticket for him.

Nothing goes according to plan, of course, or the story would be boring. I did not find the ending satisfying. Nevertheless, this was an engaging little read. I liked it.


According to his blurb, author Damien Krsteski is originally from the Balkans but now lives and works in Germany. (Hence calls the alternative world “Welt.”) He writes fiction and develops software. His work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Metaphorosis, Future Fire, and other places.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Bullies”
Author: Damien Krsteski
First published: Theme of Absence, April 3, 2020

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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