gerhard's review

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5.0

Okay, this issue gets 5 stars simply for 'Night Fever' by Will Ludwigsen, an 'alternate history' yarn with Charles Manson as a DJ at Studio 54, and in conversation with Truman Capote ... to the eternal beat of 'Dancing Queen'.

standback's review

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4.0

Really interesting issue. A few real home runs for me, and almost all the stories did something unusual, interesting, or exciting.

My standout stories:

"On the Ship," by Leah Cypess. Something is sorely amiss aboard the colony ship St. Louis. But surely the next planet on their list will be habitable -- or the one after that?
Both the tension and its underlying significance build up throughout the story. Very nicely done; recommended.

"Persephone of the Crows," by Karen Joy Fowler. Fowler is one of my favorite authors; her creations are always rich with detail and character. "Persephone," a character piece, is no exception. As always, every paragraph of Fowler's feels like a short story in its own right:
Isabelle Winters once saw a fairy. For real. (...) She's just told this to Polly, though not exactly in those words. The sarcastic for real, for instance, is all Polly. If there was ever a girl primed to see fairies, Isabelle Winters is that girl. If there ever was a girl who was not, that girl is Polly.
---
I also enjoyed:

"Come as You Are," by Dale Bailey. Its SFnal premise: that you can experience another person's personality, in the form of a drug. The protagonist is just the sort of person to make frequent, oh so frequent, use of this drug -- and the story covers both his downward spiral, and where that leads him.

"Night Fever," by Will Ludwigsen. alternate history, where Charles Manson's spree is in the 70's disco era, instead of in the 60's. Plus ├ža change...
Extremely engaging -- even for me, who didn't really know anything about Manson before reading the piece.

"Good Show," by William Preston: A film critic gets a private invitation to a deeply unsettling screening. Whoever his "benefactors" are, they want to get their production just right -- and Pete really, really doesn't want them to.
A silly story, in many ways, but a very fun one.

"Tired of the Same Old Quests?," by Peter Wood. A fun, quick pastiche - and heaven knows, good pastiche is rare and precious.

--

"The Runabout," by Kristen Kathryn Rusch: Rusch's writing is extremely engaging, and this story does a great job portraying a space salvage team encountering something truly otherworldly. They're seasoned pros who know they're in over their heads, and also know they have no better choice.
I enjoyed quite a bit, but this story fizzled out towards its end leaving it feeling incomplete and highly unresolved. In retrospect, it's revealed as much less exploration and discovery; much more thriller, suspense for suspense's sake.

"The Escape of the Adastra: Asha's Story," by James Gunn. A family starship is being held captive; we see their attempts at diplomacy in flashbacks, and their escape in the present day. This is apparently a teaser for the next book in Gunn's Transcendental series, and it shows -- there seems much more exposition than narrative, and the events don't seem particularly interesting in their own right.

"Triceratops," by Ian McHugh. A quiet, introspective story about attempting to bring the past back to life.

"The Best Man," by Jay O'Connell. A thought-plague has victims violently hating their own faces. Brendan has painted his face green in order to stave off the effect, which might hamper his participation in his brother's wedding.
Mostly this is a weird piece that I don't feel really find its footing -- it veers between horrifying and goofy, leaning more weight on the humiliation of wearing makeup in an airport than it does upon multiple deaths. This winds up being a "get a normal thing done while something insane is going on" story, but I don't much care about the normal thing, and the "something insane" feels fairly aimless as well.
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