Short Story Review: “The Jade Woman of the Luminous Star” by Sean Williams

3 of 5 stars.

A common feature of Victorian Era speculative and science fiction was a purposeful lack of immediacy. Secondhand accounts narrate fantastical tales allowing for plausible deniability of the narrator. It’s almost an apologetic way to relate a story with an implied naivete. ex. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an account of an account–nothing firsthand.

Emulating that tradition, and using Victorian England as a backdrop–albeit a subtly steampunked England–this tale is a step removed in its telling. Dr. Michaels, the narrator, bears witness to his interview with an asylum patient facing murder changes. The patient, an esteemed scientist, was found in his lab with the bludgeoned body of his wife. The scientist had been pursuing methods of teleporting between distant locations, or perhaps even different planes of existence or universes in a multi-verse. Naturally, the good doctor doesn’t believe the alleged felon nor his rantings about a female visitor from another plane of existence killing his beloved wife.

Reading an account of an account, neither of which professes to be “at the time of,” distances the story and the emotions of the participants. This same tale not refracted through multiple filters could have been much more affecting.

This tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated
by artist, Daniel Tyka. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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