shadeyc's review

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adventurous mysterious reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Using this as a marker for Nisi Shawl's 'Shiomah's Land'. I loved it, just wanted it to be longer. 

djotaku's review against another edition

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As usual, the per-story reviews are below this section. But first, a ranking of said stories.

The stories I REALLY liked: The Sum of Her Expectations, The Last Boast-Builder in Ballyvoloon, Intro to Prom, Shiomah's Land

Great: Red Lights, And Rain

Good: The Psychology Game

Not a fan: The Nightingales in Platres

The per-story reviews:

The Sum of Her Expectations: First of all, I love what the title is a reference to within this story. I like the idea of the aliens and I also love the possible metaphor of what happens with the contruction bots in the planet they've left behind. In the end, the story is a metaphor for dealing with trauma and I really like how it came together.

The Nightingales in Platres: An alternate future story in which some Greeks get on a generation ship to try and emigrate to a new planet. I'm not a fan of how the story went, but they can't all be something I love.

The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon: A future in which we created an AI "organism" to remove plastics from the sea and things got out of hand. I think more of the public needs to read stories like this before we try some hare-brained idea to deal with climate change or pollution.

The Psychology Game (translated): A future (except it takes place in 2020 ;) ) in which there's a reality TV show where people get psychological help. The twist is that the psychologist might be an AI and neither the patient nor the audience knows. Turns out to almost be in the structure of some of the non-fiction in Clarkesworld where it's exploring a non-fiction subject with some fictional examples. Also, never thought of this before:
"And to be honest, human therapists have feelings too. If you keep on unloading your emotional garbage onto them, wouldn’t they suffer too? Sometimes I think using human therapists is kind of inhumane."

Intro to Prom: Oh, man - what an incredible story. A perfect tale of corporate greed and how it affects the little folks. I can 100% see something like this actually happening (which is sad and scary). WOW.

Shiomah's Land: I correctly guessed what's the twist would be in terms of the origins of this world. But that did not take away from how well-written it was and how it made me feel the emotions of the main character. I'd love to read another story in the same universe.

Red Lights, And Rain: The fallout from a time war. It takes a lot of good twists and turns and I was not expecting the ending.


An optimist and Pessimist tackle the Fermi paradox: Exactly as the title suggests - looking at both positive and negative reasons for why we haven't found life out there.

Automatons, Wyrms, and Dead Men: A Conversation with Elizabeth Bear: A discussion about Elizabeth Bear's book (A Sword in the Skull), her writing process, how her anthropology backgrounnd affects her writing, and advice for writers.

Another Word: Grains of Salt, Lumps of Gold: A contemplation on advice-giving, followed by some advice on how to move from short story authorship to novel-writing.

Editor's Desk: About a new issue 5 years after Neil's heart attack.

mikewhiteman's review

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The Sum Of Her Expectations - Jack Skillingstead ***
A woman finds herself confronted by her own abandonment issues when she attempts to rescue her robot friend from a planet overrun by city-building nanomachines. The representative of the sublimed society that created the builders adds to the creepiness and focuses her eventual catharsis.

The Nightingales In Plátres - Natalia Theodoridou **
A group of Orthodox Greeks in a generation ship find themselves stranded on a barren planet, waiting for the Dirac wave they need to continue their journey. Some nice flavour of the culture onboard the ship but the communication and sacrifice at the heart of the story is played so straight that it jars.

The Last Boat-Builder In Ballyvoloon - Finbarr O'Reilly ****
Quiet story about a man refusing to accept the transformative change brought on his world. Captures the atmosphere of the small Irish seaside town and the SF aspects - attempts to clean up the oceans and free them of plastics evolved out of control - are smoothly integrated.

The Psychology Game - Xia Jia, trans. Emily Jin & Ken Liu **
Not much in the way of a story; sets up the idea of counselling on TV where the patient does not know if their therapist is a human or an AI, then discusses various issues around that through interviews and description. Interesting enough, and the conclusion (it doesn't matter if they are or not) is reasonable, if a bit pat.

Intro To Prom - Genevieve Valentine ****
A bleak story about the four survivors left behind in a domed town now covered by the ocean and how they get through the timeless days with each other. The multiple viewpoints tease out the details of the situation and their true helplessness; the character work is excellent, they each inhabit the world in a different way and the writing

Shiomah's Land - Nisi Shawl ***
A girl's journey from starvation on the streets to posthuman godhood. The relationship between Teekoige/Shiomah and Amma always has coercion hanging over it, though the final conflict is about a different betrayal and any romance is ambiguous as to both of their intentions. The world is fun and opulent but that central relationship never quite comes into focus.

Red Lights, And Rain - Gareth L Powell *
Powell's writing is just not for me. Everything is so surface level and matter of fact. A biologically enhanced super soldier vampire from the future being hunted down across time by a "fangbanger" presumably sounded like a cool pitch but I just do not care when reading it. Even when it's revealed the vampire had a family so is he even really that bad? Mmm, nuance.