Thursday, May 30, 2024

Seeds of Mercury, by Wang Jinkang / 水星播种 (author), 王晋康, Alex Woodend (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers
), Flame Tree Press, April 2023

Chen Yizhe is a successful businessman, with twenty billion yuan in assets, a beautiful wife, and a lovely son. Life is exactly how he wants it.

He gets a phone call from a Mr. He Jun, who is a lawyer representing the estate of Ms. Sha Wu, who has died and designated Chen Yizhe as her legatee. Chen Yizhe has dim memories from childhood of Ms. Sha Wu, a distant aunt of his, but has no idea why she would leave him her estate.

It turns out not to be the small and uncomplicated bequest he assumes. Ms. Sha Wu has been quietly working on a project to develop a new life form that will survive, and hopefully evolve, on Mercury.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Year Without Sunshine, by Naomi Kritzer

Uncanny, November-December 2023

The world has undergone some kind of catastrophe resulting in clouds thick enough to block sunshine--and this is following several lesser disasters that had already created challenges for modern life. Not everything is cut off. Electricity is available several days a week. Medicines are getting hard to get, but authorities, apparently federal authorities, have made life-critical medications, such as insulin, a priority.

When the internet fails, Alexis and a neighbor, Tanesha, set up a booth they call WHATSUP, where neighbors previously communicating via WhatsApp can leave messages for each other.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

One Man’s Treasure, by Sarah Pinsker

Uncanny, January-February 2023

Aden, Nash, and new crewmate Renny are city trash collectors in a world where magic is just a fact of life, and bulk trash day in the wealthy neighborhoods can be exciting.

Sometimes it's neat stuff the wealthy throw away, often with magical enhancements. Sometimes it's dangerous stuff, that can potentially kill you--which is what happened to Blue, the teammate Renny is replacing.

This time, it's a statue quietly asking for help.

City regulations say that a statue, talking or not, is an inanimate object, and if it's been thrown out, it's trash.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Ivy, Angelica, Bay, by C.L. Polk

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250882608, December 2023

Miss l'Abielle--Theresa Anne l'Abelle, but only for people outside the community is she anything but Miss l'Abielle--has just buried her mother, who was the witch protecting their whole community. She's got to take over now, but she's flattened by grief, and doesn't really believe she's up to the task. It seems a little worse, a little harder, when a visit from a desperate young woman results in her becoming the guardian of a mysterious orphan girl.

The girl's name is Jael Brown, and she's an innocent, frightened child abandoned on Miss l'Abielle's doorstep with a battered suitcase with her only possessions. But something else makes itself felt; an insinuating, threatening magic touched them both before being dispersed. Something is wrong, and it's just the first of many signs that something threatens her community.

On the Fox Roads, by Nghi Vo


Tor Books, ISBN 9781250333490, February 2023

A Chinese American girl in 1930s America hooks up with two Chinese American bank robbers, Jack and Lai. The girl's parents had lost the deed to their store to the bank, and then Jack and Lai robbed the bank and took the deed with the rest of what they stole. Now, the girl wants to steal it back from them.

Two adult bank robbers aren't overcome by a young teen girl, but they offer her a chance to earn it back. She becomes their lookout, getaway driver, and occasional more active participant in some crimes.

Along the way, she gets dressed up as a boy for one job, and finds this feels much more natural to her. Or rather, him. He learns the ways of Chinese magic, and not just the "fox roads," or spirit roads of Chinese mythology.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times, by Baoshu (author), Xueting C. Ni (translator)

Galaxy’s Edge Vol. 13: Secret Room in the Black Domain, published by New Star Press, February 2023 (Chinese cover displayed)

A tycoon, who famously delights in gourmet meals from every cuisine, is invited to a unique experience. It's unique, all right, and he experiences tastes that range from the very good to the truly excellent, to the most stunning ever. Something he has never tasted before.

But there are complications. 

The Mausoleum's Children, by Aliette de Bodard

Uncanny, May 2023

In de Bodard's Xuya Universe, there are many space habitats and communities of space habitats. Near one of them is the Mausoleum, the wreckage of several ships from a massive collision. They are crunched and melted together, intruding into each other, but much of the space is still habitable.

Thuận Lộc spent her childhood there, working under the supervision of the Architects, doing jobs only children were small enough to do. Then she escaped, leaving behind her two closest friends--something she still regrets.

Now, she's going back for them.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub, by P. Djèlí Clark

Uncanny, February 2023

Trevor Hemley is an ambitious young man in 19th century London. The precise period isn't clear, but to me it feels more Victorian than Regency. Those terms may be inappropriate, though, because this is a world in when Mermen are real, have lost a war with the British, amd many live in Britain doing whatever work they can get.

It's also a world in which krakens are real, well-documented, and until relatively recently, a major threat to shipping. Now they are believed to be extinct, or nearly so.

Which leads us to Trevor Hemley's ambitions.

Better Living Through Algorithms, by Naomi Kritzer

Clarkesworld, Issue 200, May 2023

Linnea starts hearing about a new--from her friends, online, news stories--called Abelique. It prompts them to make changes, mostly small, in their lives. The users all seem to think it's great, but it sounds creepy to her.

Eventually, her boss, Keith, mentions it, and doesn't just mention it. He wants her and everyone else in the office to use it. "It's not a productivity app!" he insists. "It's a wellness app!"

Having already been downchecked once for being "not open to new processes," she figures she better try it.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Answerless Journey, by Han Song (author), Alex Woodland (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers, Flame Tree Press, ISBN 9781787588158, April 2023

A person wakes up, in a chair, alone. There are two other identical chairs in the otherwise empty room. The person has no memory, and can find no way to identify themself than as "Creature." After a while, another person walks in. Creature's retained language is slight enough that they can only call the new person "Same Kind." The two start talking, exploring the space they're in, gradually retrieving more language.

The Locked Coffin: A Judge Dee Mystery (Judge Dee #6) Lavie Tidhar

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250233544, October 2023

Good enough, for a vampire mystery. I'll admit that the use of the name, "judge Dee," annoys me.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

I Am AI: A Novelette, by Ai Jiang

Shortwave Media, ISBN 9781959565093, June 2023

Ai is a cyborg living in grim world, a self-built community on the edge of the city of Emit, controlled by the New Era corporation. There are jobs at New Era, but they are grim, relentless, soul-crushing jobs. And every citizen, working for New Era, or living on the edge in Ai's community, owes a large debt to New Era for just the necessities of surviving to adulthood.

The Job at the End of the World, by Ray Naylor, August 2023

The story of a disaster worker, no, sorry, a resilience worker. The narrator goes to disaster areas, rebuilds, and moves on to the next disaster. They've been doing it for years. now, they're tired, and wealthy. They retire, go to the lovely home they've built in a lovely, and hopefully safe spot.

Things don't go as planned.

Could be grim, but it isn't.