Review: Clarkesworld #148, January 2019

Clarkesworld #148, January 2019

Original Fiction:

  • “Eater of Worlds” by Jamie Wahls (science fiction short story)
  • “One’s Burden, Again” by Natalia Theodoridou (science fictional short story)
  • “Fire in the Bone” by Ray Nayler (science fiction short story)
  • “The Ghosts of Ganymede” by Derek Kunsken (science fictional novelette)
  • “Venus in Bloom” by Lavie Tidhar (science fiction short story)

None of the original stories in this meaty issue of Clarkesworld entirely worked for me but most had merits which some may appreciate. (The reprints are quite good, though. I honorably mentioned Marissa Lingen’s 2018 Analog story “Left to Take the Lead” and recommended Karl Bunker’s 2016 Asimov’s story “They Have All One Breath.” It’s also worth noting that there is no translation this time.)

The depressed and depressing “Burden” of dealing with death would have fit nicely into this month’s Lightspeed as it conflates a “crash landing on an asteroid” story with the myth of Sisyphus rather than, say, cleverly transposing Philoctetes into The Man in the Maze as Robert Silverberg did. Similarly, “Ghosts” may not be a quantum magician story but certainly has ruinous quantum magic along with the inexplicable premise of putting the survivors of a nuclear war between Eritrea and Ethiopia together on Ganymede to mine helium-3 from Jupiter. If readers could swallow both these things and appreciate the message, they might be able to enjoy the story. Similarly, “Eater” is a story about not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube but possibly being able to brush your teeth. After a far-future interstellar war, a missile/ship blows up the moon on its way to try to eat the Earth, with a mission complicated by its own sentiences and Earth’s now-primitive resistance. The serious SF (even horror) elements are constantly undercut by the facetious tone which serves to give the story some energy and may work for some but hurt the fairly interesting story for me. (It’s also quite the ship which isn’t dented by a relativistic collision with a moon.)

Fire” flips the script on the theme of “Ghosts” and “Eater” but is also one of two stories in this issue to feature robots. If readers aren’t sick beyond words of the “robot as slave” metaphor, have never experienced anything like a Twilight Zone reversal episode, and can accept implausible economics, then they might enjoy this otherwise powerfully written tale. “Bloom” is similar to “Burden” in having a granddaughter dealing with the death of a grandfather (who loved growing flowers in a Venusian cloud city) but it’s also the other robot story. It makes me think of Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls,” somehow, though in this story it has individuals being backlit by Society rather than Nature.