Short Story Review: “The Ghastly Bird” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

The strength of science lies in the scientific method–form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, collect data from the test, and check the conclusions. If that isn’t enough, peer review has other independent scientists check the work and cross check the methodology. Science is not just another form of faith like a godless religion, despite the implications of some unscientific skewing of the term “theory”.

Fictional scientists should act like scientists, at least somewhat.

In this tale, Zev is an ornithologist, a zoologist that studies birds. He moves to the island nation of Mauritius to teach because his favorite LIVING bird is the dodo. That’s right, he profoundly has faith that the dodo isn’t extinct. Without empirical or observational evidence, he also decides that the dodo is an intelligent animal and friendly. Due to his beliefs, his girlfriend leaves him and he hides his dodo faith from colleagues. [As well he should considering his very unscientific stance.]

One day while observing the many bird feeders he maintains on the back of his property, Zev witnesses a dodo emerge from the forest. Or does he? . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: The Last Witness by K. J. Parker

The Last WitnessThe Last Witness by K.J. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memory is a tricksy thing. When toyed like in the movie Memento, it’s a solid foundation for a slippery psychological thriller. One’s sense of self and purpose is only as good as what one makes of one’s memories.

In this fantasy-thriller novella, the roguish narrator is a dark hero–perhaps a superhero–with the ability to steal away specific memories from other people. He can do almost whatever he wants, and blank any potential witnesses. This doesn’t work out for his relationships with his family, nor his lover. They’re too complicated, with too many intertwined memories.

The cad becomes a memory-thief for hire, and there’s good money in it from the sort that would hire him. But memories stolen become his own, and it’s not always easy to tell which memories are which or from whom. He half-knows places and people like near constant deja vu . . . As the ultimate witness to so many crimes [because he took the memories on], assassins are often sent his way. But they can be blanked, too, while revealing their patron . . .

One day he takes on charity case, the victim has been assaulted and likely raped. He’s loath to own these memories, but he accepts the case and a few coins. In the avataristic realm where the thought-thievery takes place, the victim’s avatar shockingly appears to defend her memory. She, too, is a memory thief . . .

In a realm with two memory thieves whose lives become entwined, nothing can be trusted.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction Novellas: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Heaven Thunders the Truth” and The Things We Do For Love.

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E-Magazine Review: Blindspot: Testing Reality, Issue 1

3 of 5 stars.

In an effort to promote French sci-fi and to bridge the American and French sci-fi communities, Angle Mort was founded in 2010. That team has now launched this magazine, edited by Julien Wacquez, in its mission to translate French science fiction into English.

The first issue of Blindspot contains four short stories, which I’ve previously reviewed, and interviews with all four contributing authors and a contributing artist. The interviews are a great touch to really delve into the author’s mindset.

Judging by these four stories, French and American sci-fi are distant cousins separated more than by mere language. This is not a bad thing. It’s akin to watching French and American film. Most American films feel Hollywood for better or for worse. English-language sci-fi tends toward fantasy–building elaborate apocalyptic scenarios or layered off-planet societies etc. These four French tales are veered toward the existential in a way less embraced by American writing which usually stops at depicting psychological benders if not straight forward tales.

The included tales are:
Dunyach, Jean-Claude–“Landscape with Intruders”–3 stars
D’Asciano, Jean-Luc Andre–“The First Tree in the Forest”–4 stars
Hotait, Darine–“I Come From Future”–2 stars
Charrasse, Fanny–“Record of a Growth”–3 stars

I look forward to future issues as the tales broaden the definition of science fiction and the interviews provide invaluable insight. I received my copy of this issue directly from one of the editors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Record of a Growth” by Fanny Charrasse

3 of 5 stars.

Paranoia taints one’s view of the world. It can lead to second-guessing what one experiences and obsessing over the details. Schizophrenic paranoia takes that to another level with the entire baseline for reality getting reset.

This tale lies along the paranoia spectrum as at first Phil is only slightly annoyed by his girlfriend’s obsession with a mole on her belly that she thinks is growing. She wants him to measure it, but he mockingly measures a red stain on the wall that he claims to be worried about.

A few days later, the stain on the wall catches Phil’s attention–it does indeed look bigger, much bigger. Then, he starts to notice red stains everywhere. More each day . . .

While considered sci-fi by the author and publisher, I’d classify this tale as absurdism or horror-lite. There are no social context clues as to the framework of society merely a close-up on Phil’s world. Sci-fi usually hints at the larger state of the world or society.

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: “I Come From Future” by Darine Hotait

2 of 5 stars.

Existentialism emerged from French art and philosophy melding into a disassociative POV. A narrator may or may not be aware of the socio-cultural constraints which dictate one’s worldview.

This tale’s narrator, Ob short for “object”, knows that his world, Future, is very limited in scope and that other realities exist beyond the range of Future. What Ob cannot be sure of is whether he is awake or dreaming or lucid. But Ob’s confident that there are other ways and mindsets, or at the very least, past ones.

In an allegorical bent, all Obs [as every object is an Ob] have 3 cartons. One for one’s memories, one for current thoughts [These are highly regulated.], and one for goals [These are forbidden.]. All Obs, despite potential immortality, receive precisely timed terminations at which time the contents of Carton 1, the memories, are destroyed. Except that Ob remembers some things from before . . . or Ob is dreaming it . . .

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 Camden Blood Thieves” by Salena Godden

3 of 5 stars.

Wonderfully bizarre movies like Night on Earth [Jarmusch 1991], and Before Sunrise and Before Sunset [Linklater 1995, 2004] capture the intriguing threads of strangers passing through each other’s lives–a mainstay of the urban experience. Night, especially, is when the crazy happens.

This tale follows one songwriter from her daytime meeting with a manager into her fever-dream crisscrossing of Camden and the northside of London until dawn the next day. A stranger with a sad story in a pub becomes a late night adventure with a side of paranoia achieving a 9 on the stalker scale. Rather than do the sensible thing and retreat to her flat, she sidetracks and follows the sad stylings of a nomad’s harmonica into an even later night adventure that starts to churn back on the previous adventure . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The First Tree in the Forest” by Jean-Luc Andre D’Asciano

4 of 5 stars.

At the edge of existence there lies a certain type of madness. Whether it’s loneliness, or something worse and inexplicable. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable. Here, it comes across as fantastical, though no less dark.

Humans managed to make themselves nearly immortal if it weren’t for their own genetically engineered viruses and persistent world wars. 150 test subjects survived the war-spawned virus. Then their numbers dwindled. The narrator is the last surviving man. And in his long-lived life, the days blur into an endless loop starting each day on his terrace overlooking the vast dark forest.

His only companions are his companion “machine” that his house reconstructs every time the man destroys it out of fun or frustration, a white stag that the man has not managed to kill, and the little pills that warp his perspective of time and reality. Red, to forget. Green, to remember. Striped, to bend perception.

He also sees ghosts of the species long since driven into extinction and fantastical hybrids of other extinct species. Or maybe its just the striped pills. Maybe the white stag is the striped pills. Maybe everything is the striped pills . . .

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.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]