“The Long Retreat” by Robert Reed – Lieutenant Castor is one of the closest assistants to the ailing emperor. Only a small entourage remains of the army as they retreat from the enemy. When it seems they cannot retreat anymore, Castor learns that the empire is much larger than he imagined.
The story had an intriguing premise with realistic characters. It was too difficult for me to wrap my mind around the plausibility of the empire, so I never felt fully grounded to the plot.
“Bait” by Robin Aurelian – Navin and his family go on a hunting trip for fantastical game. Navin, who hates these trips, has a knack for attracting pests. During the trip, he draws the attention of a rare parasite that threatens to take over his body.
“Bait” was a nice, quick read that was a tad grotesque at points.
“Writers of the Future” by Charles Oberndorf – As part of his world tour, the narrator attends Magnus Esner’s writing workshop. He learns about how to write stories readers can interact with, which is the standard of this distant future, where the line between man and machine is so blended, it’s difficult to identify where consciousness ends.
Oberndorf presents several complex ideas in this tale. It made me think about my own writing and the conveyance of ideas.
“Songwood” by Marc Laidlaw – Spar the gargoyle seeks passage oversea by stowing himself aboard a vessel. He discovers that the ship’s feminine figurehead is alive because it is made of songwood. The two converse secretly, finding they share a special bond though one is wood and one is stone.
This was my favorite story of the issue. A love story in fantasy form, I found it engaging and touching.
“Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance” by Paul Park – The narrator investigates his family’s past, trying to understand the mysteries of his life.
I had a difficult time following this story. It was full of excerpts and other narration compiled together into one tale. I think it makes a good study for writing techniques (which were very impressive), but it didn’t hold my interest.
“The Secret Lives of Fairy Tales” by Steven Popkes – A retelling of five familiar fairy tales.
This was a fun read, and I liked how Popkes tied the tales together.
“The Late Night Train” by Kate Wilhelm – As the sole caretaker for her aging parents, the narrator feels trapped between her abusive father and passive mother.
I connected with the protagonist’s pain, the unbearable situation she endured each day. Well written and surprisingly realistic.
“Nanosferatu” by Dean Whitlock – Hugh Graeber strives to create the perfect drug: a panacea that requires a lifetime prescription. His researchers design nanobots that improve health dramatically, but they never die.
I really enjoyed the change in narration in this piece, and I found myself admiring the writer’s skills as much as the story itself.
“City of the Dog” by John Langan – The narrator finds what he thinks is an injured dog while accompanying his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, to a club. Kaitlyn refuses to wait for him while he goes to inspect the wounded animal, a mistake that he later regrets when Kaitlyn disappears.
This story moves very fast, but the timing is great. Aside from being too explicit at times, I thought highly of it. I loved the eeriness and the ending.