Short Story Review: “Gator” by Robert J. Sawyer

GatorGator by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This short story takes an urban legend [that of released alligators living in the sewers of New York City], boldly calls it out for being an urban legend, and then veers the tale in a different direction. Interestingly, the different direction is more outlandish than the urban legend relying on multiple levels of science fiction and speculation.

An NYC sewer worker gets a massive chunk of flesh torn from his thigh in a monster attack beneath the streets of Manhattan. He saw his attacker in the dim light of the sewer and claimed it was an alligator–a deformed one. The emergency doctor and a paleontologist team up to solve the mystery with only one clue beyond that of the testimonial–a 4-inch tooth extracted from the wound . . .

Once the viability of the urban legend is debunked as outrageous and impossible, the tale veers into an answer more outrageous and impossible than the urban legend. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. But for a short tale to quickly layer on speculation into mineralogy, alternate evolution, alternate history, multi-verses, and confluences of all of the above is an undertaking beyond the scope of this narrative.

This tale is included in Writers of the Future: Volume 33, the anthology of winners of the contest by the same name started by L. Ron Hubbard. This year’s anthology was edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Maltese Unicorn” by Caitlin R. Kiernan

3 of 5 stars.

When the purest substance on earth, unicorn horn, is used to make a dildo, every demon for millennia wants to get their . . . hands . . . on it.

Two demon brothel madams battle over NYC turf. Each would like to add the aforementioned rumored item to their arsenal and jump into action when it hits Chinatown. The scrap up comes down to a dead Jimmy Wong, an ambitious double-crossing sorceress, and a lesbian store owner of rare books.

The tale comes across plenty noir, but more Lovecraft than detective. There’s much world-building for a short story, stretching this tale to the extremes with what’s left unexplained.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read this author’s:
     “The Bone’s Prayer”–3 stars
     “Bridle”–4 stars
     “The Cats of River Street (1925)”–5 stars
     “The Cripple and Starfish”–4 stars
     “Dancy vs. the Pterosaur”–3 stars
     “The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean”–4 stars
     “The Peddler’s Tale, or Isobel’s Revenge”–2 stars
     “The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings”–5 stars
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Mortal Bait” by Richard Bowes

3 of 5 stars.

New York City plays a strong second character in this 1940s detective noir with a psychological, supernatural bent. Fae and elves both exist on the periphery of humanity within elusive alternate dimensions. They’re at war with each other, and neither tolerates much from humanity. But they’re more than willing to turn humans into unwitting pawns in their long-running hostilities.

Detective Sam Grant takes the cases that look to involve other dimensions. Amid his own WWI flashbacks, he tries to discern what’s real, supernatural, and merely a figment. Unfortunately, both fae and elves have the ability to read minds and scramble memories. Supernatural interference resembles both PTSD and schizophrenia . . .

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously reviewed Bowes’ excellent “Sleep Walking Now and Then”.

 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear

3 of 5 stars.

Like a cross between Chicago’s [and Butcher’s] Harry Dresden and Newt Scamander [of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them], an unassuming NYC Humanities professor scans potential murder scenes for signs of fae machinations or cryptozoology. His glamour sigils tattooed over his body offer protection and near perceptual invisibility.

However, the trio of freshman female admirers are hot on his trail to figure out their elusive professor. Little do they know that they’re following into the territory of his quarry, a dangerous beast . . .

The POV nicely switches between Dr. S and the young admirers. However, the climax happens quickly and amid a flurry of confusion. A deeper parsing from one or more of the women in this scene would elevate this story.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read Bear’s:
     “The Hand is Quicker–“–4 stars
     “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”–4 stars
     “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings”–4 stars
     “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle”–4 stars
     “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King”–4 stars
     “Swell”–4 stars
     [w/ Sarah Monette]–“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward–4 stars
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]