Graphic Release: Genesis V by Double Take

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With the June release of Genesis IV, I praised the sheer number and intensity of social issues raised about privilege, race, gender and sexuality. Set against the backdrop of 1960’s middle America, the contemporary issues rang clear. The series even provided neutral voices in the form of non-Earth beings. If there was any major complaint to be made about the series that drops 10 simultaneous issues together in the Genesis package, it’s that the confluence of zombie lore, mutant superhero lore and alien lore all melding in a single series was indubitably confusing for a single read-through, or five.

This 5th installment to the series addresses the confusion by providing a helpful recap narrator, Kevin, at the start of each issue. He manages to sum up that title’s major characters and their arcs, while providing clarity on previous ambiguities of which there were plenty. He also pulls the separate titles together contextually.

What doesn’t happen is–anything.

With the series finale coming within the next month or so, all the undead meat has apparently been saved for later. Some of the titles even take a serious step back as they merely provide altered perspectives on events already seen in episode #4. The clarity is welcome, but could also have come throughout the series allowing each issue to grind forward.

I’ve previously read Genesis I, Genesis II, and Genesis III.

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Short Story Review: “Landscape with Intruders” by Jean-Claude Dunyach

3 of 5 stars.

Notably, the inaccurate model of electrons politely sticking to their orbits as they revolve around an atom’s nucleus resembles the simplified model of the solar system. Then again, the more accurate electron cloud of possibilities might be said to resemble the Oort cloud of comets. It’s all about scale. On Earth, humans inhabit the macro scale where we fail to notice mites, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. One can only wonder at the view from the micro perspective.

This tale delves into the notion of scale as a frontier scientist sets out on a lonely mission to look for disturbances in the Northern Canadian expanses that could be affecting animal migrations and possibly forest fires. What he finds after a naked drunken evening under the stars is his own body colonized like a memorably distasteful episode of pubic lice. Worse, the colonizers seem very aware of him . . .

This tale appears in the magazine Blindspot: Testing Reality, Issue #1 by the founders of Angle Mort. Their mission is to translate French science fiction into English to bridge the American and French science fiction communities. I received my copy of this issue directly from one of the editors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” by Kelly Robson

2 of 5 stars.

The thin line between life and death is often explored in speculative fiction since fantasy can bridge the barrier to show both sides of the border. The title of this tale promises nothing less. It also opens with the date 09 September 2001–two days before 9-11 and the infamous terrorists acts that took down four planes and The Twin Towers. One cannot use these dates lightly, especially in a tale that promises to explore the line between life and death.

Over the course of 4 days in September 2001, 8th-11th, the title character dies many times. When she’s not dead, she’s conversing with the voices in her head promising to heal her. At times the voices claim to be alien with a ship and everything, at others they claim to be bacterial. This quizzical contradiction is never resolved, unless one accepts that alien bacteria came by spaceship.

The crux is why she’s dying. On the 9th, it’s from grievous wounds. On the 8th, it’s from a rape and assault that led to the grievous wounds that would kill her the next day again. The encouraging alien bacteria bring her back. After that it becomes less clear why she dies yet again.

The tale never explains why it puts 9-11 in the back ground without affecting the plot of the short story. It’s still too early to use 9-11 as window dressing and not address it. The heart of the story lies in Jessica’s dealing with the horrific circumstances she finds herself in.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s historical fantasy Water of Versailles.

 

 

 

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Short Story Review: “Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan” by Ian McDonald

3 of 5 stars.

The Victorian steampunk voice may be applied to many fantastical landscapes while still pinning the tale in the antiquated era and attitude. Here, the genre conveys the particularly Victorian “noble” cause of “experiencing and “exploring” foreign cultures, flora and fauna yet takes it into normally sci-fi territory by landing the adventure on Venus with its native biota and colonies of humans from Earth. However, all of this is done through the filter of the Victorian POV which means 1) rank, class and gender matters, 2) while local culture barely registers, and 3) local biota is appreciated merely aesthetically with superimposed, circumstantial stories to add worth. ie There is nothing particularly scientific about the collection of “13 Botanicals from Venus.”

Also particularly Victorian and worth noting is the detached storytelling where the ultimate narrator is merely piecing together context from letters and diaries and other found works having experienced none of the adventures for herself. Here, a descendant of Ida describes the paper-made exquisite art of Botanicals from Venus while injecting tales from Ida as written in Ida’s found diaries. Those diaries also tell various accounts from third parties from different species and classes of people across Venus. The flowers play merely the thinnest of plot points.

Most of this tale is about the telling, not the plot. However, the plot boils down to: Ida tours Venus presumably to experience and re-create unique flowers. Secretly, she’s tailing the path of her brother who disappeared 15 years prior from Ireland on the same night that the prized sapphire, the Blue Empress, went missing. Arthur’s trail wends across the formidable landscape of Venus, crossing cultures and peoples that Ida’s breeding wouldn’t normally allow.

“People have tremendous ideas of family–loyalty and undying love and affection: tremendous expectations and ideals that drive them across worlds to confess and receive forgiveness. Families are whatever works.”

This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, I received directly from Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Empress in Her Glory” by Robert Reed

2 of 5 stars.

A wide array of scenarios exists in literature answering the question What would aliens think of humans if they came to Earth? Sometimes, they barely pay any mind to man, other times they wage war, enslave, co-exist, or feed on humans. This tale offers an inauspicious and particularly strong beginning to the relationship of humans and aliens:

If not taken at the right moment, any ripe prize falls from its tree and rots away, and nothing is gained. That was how They looked at the situation . . . And after four and a half billion years of slow, often irregular growth, the Earth was deemed ripe.

But the unnamed aliens choice in what to do with a planet they deem theirs is rather odd. They remain unseen and pick a single human out of billions to administer the planet, and not as any sort of puppet. And what exactly the aliens get out of the arrangement is never clarified. It merely serves as background for how Adrianne Hammer is, unbeknownst to the rest of humanity nor really herself, is elevated to the role of Empress. Before the elevation, she is an analyst in a small office of cubicles in nowhere Ohio, and a part-time blogger putting out 1 post per week.

Then things change, an anonymous [alien] tip leads her to blog about dam instability. And days later the Three Gorges Dam breaks killing millions in China. At first it seems that the Empress is a pawn for alien actions. And her blog posts definitely serve as her royal, albeit vague, decrees. However, all her blog posts come true in some form or another whether it’s sourced from aliens or her own interests. She really does hold the reins, which leads to quite the career shift as millions become aware of her blog . . .

It’s unfortunate that the aliens arrangement seems so random and at odds with them having any claim on the planet. Rather, they seem to have become the pawns for their chosen empress.

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. I’ve previously read this author’s “Every Hill Ends With Sky”, and his excellent “Pernicious Romance”.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link

The Game of Smash and RecoveryThe Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Loosely science fiction, an extremely narrow focus and lack of greater world-building, implied or explicit, veers this tale of aliens and artificial intelligence closer to space fantasy. The narrow POV supports Anat who has little understanding of the greater universe nor her own history. The lack of depth into even the constricted worldview Anat would have, along with the stilted language of over relying on proper names for everything and forgoing natural pronoun usage, counters the flow of the tale making it seem like an outline to a story meant to be flushed out later. As it is, the story isn’t immersive as fantasy and sci-fi tend to be.

Anat and Oscar are alone on a planet called Home populated only by robots called handmaidens and aliens called vampires. Anat doesn’t remember her past or her parents and thereby feels very reliant on Oscar, her older brother. There’s no telling why they’re on Home, or how they’d survive there beyond the confines of their ship. Oscar isn’t forthcoming about the true nature of their situation.

The cleverest aspect of the tale is the game the siblings play to pass the time. Smash and Recovery is a bit like Capture the Flag but with the addition of a token to destroy [smash] along with the usual token to recover from the other team. Also, each of these tokens has a false version used in decoy causing the game to act as a loose metaphor for the tale of the two siblings.

This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Cinderella Game”, “I Can See Right Through You”, and “Monster”.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Graphic Release: Genesis IV by Double Take

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Tackling issues of race, gender, and sexuality, Double Take reaches full alien-and-mutant level with the release of its 4th installment in the 6-part series. Ten incorporated titles, simultaneously released, track different aspects of the 1968 societal breakdown in the wake of a pandemic going apocalyptic.

Whereas originally zombies seemed to be the crux of the problem, an evolving array of political players and differently altered victims comes to light. The primary players:
–The US government backs experiments with parasites that cause rage issues in their hosts. They also bring the dead to life.
–EarthWatch, a clandestine US group skirting NASA, has colonized Venus but monitors Earth with shockingly advanced technology.
–Aliens are watching EarthWatch and Earth and infiltrating the laboratories creating the parasites.
–A family of aliens, seemingly unconnected to the monitoring aliens, have been hiding their spaceship in their barn, but slipped and allowed doctors to take their very non-human temperatures in the wake of the pandemic.

The victims/secondary players:
–Organized zombies that think, regenerate and seek power sources and energy infrastructures.
–Mutant humans including ones that grow to gargantuan heights, shape shift, control fire, alter and/or relive time, and have telekinesis.

This confluence of events brings a contemporary read and an urban fantasy feel to the protests of the sixties.

I’ve previously read Genesis I, Genesis II, and Genesis III.