Review of “The Space Radio (Isaac and Sarah and the Star)” by Wayne Haroutunian

Aging Mortimer Cain still sits on a rocking chair on his back porch, gazing out over the waves at a particular star. The beach by his home is empty now, but a young man—hardly more than a boy—used come to the shoreline in all sorts of weather with a radio. Eyes fixed toward the sky, he’d tune the radio, searching for one certain signal.

This brief story of a thousand words or so successfully creates an atmosphere of isolation and longing. The reader understands from the first lines the characters’ search for companionship in the vastness of the universe.

If it weren’t for one unfortunate turn of phrase, the spell would be complete.

…again the old man saw the chasm in the boy’s eyes, a chasm which yearned deeply to be filled.

But magic there is aplenty. I liked this little story.

According to his blurb, author Wayne Haroutunian is a novelist and longtime short story writer.

 

Title: “The Space Radio (Isaac and Sarah and the Star)”
Author: Wayne Haroutunian
First published: Theme of Absence, August 4, 2018

The story can be read here.

Review of “The Things That We Will Never Say” by Vanessa Fogg

Aside from the science fiction trappings, this is a portrait of an adult daughter’s relationship with her aging mother. The daughter has left home—Earth—for a distant star. She returns, braving the hyperspace travel, bringing her children for a visit with their grandma.

The daughter straddles both worlds now: her adopted home and Earth. She knows her mother will never know what it’s like to live on her world, to “To feel the gene-mods reshaping your lungs, your blood, so that you may breathe the alien air. To undergo the Kairos training and mods that allow a person to see through time.” She, on the other hand, will never know what her mother went through, a single mother, desperate and angry at the end of the Empire.

The daughter knows all this. Yet neither she nor her mother will say, “I understand.”

This was a quiet, thoughtful piece, longer than most in DSF. I gave it 6 out of 7 rocket dragons.

 *****

According to her bio, author Vanessa Fogg lives in Western Michigan, a magical land. She used to work as a research scientist in molecular cell biology and now works as a freelance medical writer, with apparent sidesteps into fantasy and science fiction.

I gave it 6 out of 7 rocket dragons.

Story published 5/25/2018 in Daily Science Fiction

Review of “Seeds of the Soul Flowers” by M. K. Hutchins

Babies born without souls die. Amma’s great-grandson, born with half a soul, appears to be failing. Vette, the baby’s mother, brings him to Amma, asking if there’s anything she can do. The baby is refusing to eat. Even if they spoon milk into his mouth, he pushes it out with his tongue and lets it dribble down his chin. Is Vette to blame? Did she do something wrong?

“Of course not,” Amma tells her. “It was the fire, eating up all the soul flowers.”

Vette does not hear her. “Maybe if I had rested more. If I’d sung to him more—if I’d eaten more bone broth….”

Amma hands her baby back, telling her she will see what she can do.

This is a magical little tale, one that depicting love between family members. The love is not spoken but shown. Is it even understood by the recipients? It relies on secret knowledge of elders. While the knowledge is secret, it is shared willingly with anyone who will listen.

As brief as the tale is, it says a much.

*****

Author M. K. Hutchins studied archaeology at BYU, which, according to the bio note on her blog, allowed her to “compile histories from Maya glyphs, excavate in Belize, and work as a faunal analyst.” The final item, presumably, has to do with the examination of animals remains.

She uses her background in archaeology in her writing. To date, she has one novel, Drift, a YA fantasy based in part on Maya myths, and a collection of fantasy and science fiction titled Hidden Paths. Her short fiction appears in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, among other places.

Title: “Seeds of the Soul Flowers”
Author: M. K. Hutchins
First published: Daily Science Fiction, July 2018

The story can be read for free here.

 

 

Review of “Danger” by Fletcher Pratt

The unnamed narrator of this piece is an artist accompanying a scientific expedition to the South Pacific. The aged Professor Hertford is the expedition leader. The team includes Burgess, an entomologist; Howard, an ichthyologist; Greaves, a botanist; among others.

At one point, Burgess, trying to draw out Hertford, who is suffering from a bout of mal-de-mer, by talking about his specialty—insects—and the rising tide of their presence.

“Sooner or later,” Burgess says, “we will have to fight for our lives with them.”

Hertford doesn’t think insects will do man in (he probably means to include woman here). He thinks a new form of animal derived from protozoa will be the end of us.

The expedition first stops at Easter Island. The crew marvels as its barrenness, its lack not only of people, but of fish and animal life. They move on to nearby Sala-y-Gomez, a small uninhabited island.

Here, the narrator/artist begins sketching a seascape with a great rock on the shore. As he completes his sketch, he realizes, the rock is no longer in the same place. Is it his imagination? A trick of the light and tide?

Cries from his companions interrupt his thoughts. Sad news: Old Makoi, an Easter Islander, has been killed by a snake while fishing along the shore.

This is an old-fashion science fiction horror story. It’s a little dated. The tragedy of Easter Island is better understood now than it was in 1929 when the story was written. And if protozoa do humans in, it will probably be via disease.

Title: “Danger”
Author: Fletcher Pratt (1897-1956) and Irvin Lester (a pen name used by Fletcher Pratt. So, huh?)
First published: Amazing Stories July 1929
Source: ISFDB http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?54648
Read in: 101 Weird

© 2017 Denise Longrie

Review of “Vengeance in Her Bones” by Malcolm Routh Jameson

Retired Captain Tolliver was enjoying some sun when his dour housekeeper shows in a messenger from the recruiting office. Captain Tolliver has only one leg and one hand. The recruiting people must be confusing him with his son, who is already at sea. His own seafaring days are over.

“No, sir. It’s you he wants,” the messenger says. “He was very clear about that. He has a ship that only you can command. She’s a rogue. They say she a [sic] will obey no other skipper. He says they have waived your physical defects and will give you all the help you need. But they’ve got to have you.”

“There’s no such ship,” Captain Tolliver says.

The messenger mentions the Sadie Saxon. Now this ship, Tolliver knows. He commanded her during the Great War when they were both in their prime. And she was a vindictive wench. She was supposed to be scrapped and sold to the Japanese, but there were… problems.

“She knew it even before they attacked Pearl Harbor, but I might have told ’em,” Tolliver says.

“She won’t leave port,” the messenger tells Tolliver.

“Doesn’t that sound a little silly to you?”

The messenger then goes on to detail a series of unexplainable strandings, engine stoppages, and rudder jammings.

Tolliver still fits into his uniform and wears it with pride, even if the gold braid is tarnished. He takes command of the Sadie Saxon, dismissing men with German names, regardless of how sterling their backgrounds. He then sets sail without incident.

That is, until they are at sea and he’s awakened by the second who says she’s veered off course and won’t obey the wheel or the throttle.

Tolliver isn’t alarmed and orders she be given her head. He also gives orders to prepare to ram…

This is a poignant sea tale, written by a retired naval officer during the Second World War. The attack on Pearl Harbor was still fresh. Though the ending is not a surprise, and the language displays—as one might expect—the ethnic insensitivity of the time (Japanese are “Japs”), I rather liked this little tale. It made the cover story of the May 1942 issue of Weird Tales.

A 1963 episode of the Twilight Zone titled “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” was based on a novella by author Malcolm Routh Jameson, “Blind Alley,” first published in the June 1943 issue of Unknown.

Title: “Vengeance in her Bones”
Author: Malcolm Routh Jameson (AKA Malcolm Jamieson) (1891-1945)
First published: Weird Tales, May 1942 cover story
Source: ISFDB http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?87796
Read in: Haunts and Horrors

This, and all entries on this site, © 2017 Denise Longrie

Review of “Pieces of Me” by Hope Terrell

This is Ashley’s first solo jump as a teletrooper. “Focus,” the instructor tells the line of troops. “Concentrate on where you want to go and make the jump.”

The instructor has explained there are two dangers of getting lost during a jump. The first is physical death, which is painful but quick. The second is a spiral into madness. “In the event of an incomplete jump, whatever you do, don’t panic.”

Ashley steps to the teleport platform, touches the neural-interface on her headgear and then pushes the jump button.

I can’t do this, I’m not ready for a solo jump

But it’s too late. She’s jumped.

This little story is remarkably complete. Ashley has to contend with things she doesn’t understand. She’s understandably terrified. Will she give in to that fear, or will she overcome it and save herself? No prince is going to come riding on a white horse to save her. Whatever happens is all up to Ashley.

I liked this little tale. I would have liked more it if it were longer. What happened to some of the other teletroopers, for example? Nevertheless, for the material given, I found it enjoyable.

Five of seven rocket dragons.

Title: “Pieces of Me”
Author: Hope Terrell
First published: Daily Science Fiction December 19, 2017
Source: DSF
Read in: Daily Science Fiction

According to the author’s note, this is her first professionally published work. Good for her.

This, and all entries on this site, © Denise Longrie 2017

Review of “Decennarchy” by Sean Vivier December 18, 2017

The Decennarchs are a government that appears only once every ten years. They are like the citizens, but not like them. They count the citizens, the dogs, and the cats, demand payment from a portion of the fruits of the citizens’ labors for the past ten years, which they then pay them to do their bidding. They remake rules, both big and small, to govern the lives of the citizens, then disappear.

This is told with a straight face, with the puzzlement of a citizen who will never understand the ways or whys of government. Happily for the citizens, the government is only around for one day every ten years. Once they’re gone, the people can shrug off the baffling government and get back to living.

I rather liked this little tale and gave it six of seven rocket dragons. Apparently, I liked it more than most people. At the time I rated it, it was rated 4.5.

© 2017 Denise Longrie

My Review of “He Loves Me, I Know He Does” by Jack X. Crawford

This was offered as a free download from amazon.com during a temporary promotion. I’ve done this before and have never been happy with result. Yes, I’ve heard the definition of insanity. I was hoping this would be different because of the author’s background in radio, a medium for which I’ve long had a soft spot. From the author’s amazon.com profile:

Jack X[.] Crawford has been a Top 40 and Country DJ, Program Director, Sales Executive, and Chief Engineer for radio stations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky.

After reading this, I was hoping for some insight into the business and technological workings of a commercial radio station, especially now with technology changing so rapidly. No such luck.

The main character, Jesse Black, is a woman-beater and something of sex addict. Nevertheless, women flock to him. He’s good looking, but what makes him attractive to women is never quite explained. The women he comes into contact with are all damaged people, but then, so is nearly character in the book. Those who aren’t damaged are predators who would make Simon Legree shudder in horror.

Image