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Review: Clarkesworld Feb 2016 Stories

“That Which Stands Tends Toward Free Fall” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

At the heart of this story lies a focus on female relationships. There are the relationships of Rinthira and Chatsumon and Rinthira and Phiksunee. Involved in these female relationships are explorations of romance as well as a creator’s (although Rinthira is more of a handler) complex feelings of responsibility for their creation’s actions. By no means the only focus, the story is multi faceted, showcasing politics and artificial intelligence. In some ways (the artificial intelligence, political warfare, and complexity of the characters), this story reminds me a lot of The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. What kind of relationship remains when betrayal or disappointment occur? Can Phiksunee be held responsible for her actions even though Chatsumon tells Rinthira that “she was conceptualized from the beginning as a weapon”?

“In the Midst of Life” By Nick Wolven

This short story felt to me, similar to what the trance must have felt for Doug. Before I knew it, the story was over, somewhere it had picked me up and carried me through until I was at the end. In front of the political and economic background (a society in which corporations seem to be more powerful than countries) is a story of faith. The perspective of Doug situates the readers in his own experiences, and at the same time invites us to be skeptical (much like he is at the beginning of the story). We are invited to form our opinion of his oral narrative; edits, forgotten memories, and inconsistencies. All in all, it is a story that is worth reading in order to explore the pull of faith in the face of disbelief.

“Between Dragons and Their Wrath” by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky

As Domei says, “I’ve never seen a dragon, but I don’t need to” and neither do we. The tale is anchored by the changes the dragons leave in their wakes. It is less about the actual violence of dragons, but about the echoes and consequences they leave behind them (such as unstoppable cuts, perpetual hunger, etc). The repetition of certain phrases allows the readers to imagine that Domei is telling us the story themselves. In a world of change where a small mistake can result in your death, Hano, a rare person untouched by a dragon, seeks to understand his friend Domei and walk to the capital to escape.

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