Three reviews for this week:

Fiction

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com)

March 2016; 3,500 words. Oh, oh, oh; what a gorgeous and raw story, infused with pain and hurt that resonates. Melanie and Hannah are sisters, each with the power to control lightning and understand the permutations of the past, present, and future. After Melanie’s death, Hannah tries over and over again to find a timeline where she doesn’t die, where the world doesn’t end. The desperation in Hannah’s attempts, the sad, resigned understanding in Melanie’s voice; everything comes through so vividly in the writing. The structure of the story, with short, impactful scenes, echoes Hannah’s attempts at finding a past where Melanie doesn’t die. Chock full of beautiful lines and devastating emotional impact, this is a story you won’t want to miss. Amazing work from Alyssa Wong, with a gorgeous cover illustration by Rovina Cai.

Red Mask” by Jessica May Lin (Shimmer)

March 2016; 7,300 words. A dark story set in retrofuturistic Shanghai. A serial killer begins targeting the women who work at the Green Dream nightclub, following them home and stealing their faces. Xiao You, still haunted by her friend and coworker Feng Guniang’s suicide, goes after the serial killer to try to stop him. The aesthetic of the story is so unique—there’s a palpable atmosphere of New Shanghai that emanates from the prose, something that perfectly embodies a mix of the 1930s and an undefined future setting. The desolation within the city comes off so strongly all throughout the story, and the last line resonates because the city has been set up to be so dangerous. I can’t help but feel that there’s an undercurrent of commentary through the story as well, a discussion of gender and fighting against gendered violence: In the end it is not anger that will save us. It is whatever comes after. A multilayered story with a lot to unpack, with a beautiful cover illustration by Sandro Castelli.

Nonfiction

Book Reviews: February 2016” by Sunil Patel (Lightspeed)

February 2015; 2,000 words. Goddammit Sunil. I don’t actually plan on making reviewing reviews a regular thing (unless… people are into that?) but I couldn’t not write one after this happened:

I was just going to read the review for All the Birds in the Sky, but that review was so good that I had to read the others, and I was especially excited to read a review for The Girl From Everywhere because I’ve been seeing it on my timeline and want to check it out—and Sunil’s review sold me on it even more. (Goddammit, Sunil.)

Patel’s review for All the Birds in the Sky is by far the most humorous of the four, which matches the humorous voice throughout the book. But Sunil’s voice filters through in each review, and I find myself entertained by his mini-Sparknotes for each novel. He doesn’t shy away from saying what’s cool about each book, nor does he avoid commenting on parts that were more tedious. The reviews are overall positive, but that doesn’t mean they’re not truthful or persuasive—I left all of them with an idea of which books I myself would find more or less interesting.

As I continue to write my reviews, it’s important to me to read reviews widely and engage with a number of different writing styles. I want to see what works for me and what doesn’t as a reader and try to incorporate that into my writing as well. It’s also just fun to share the delights of a book with someone else, and Patel does so in a way that eases me into the world of the book and doesn’t leave me behind as he’s verbally gesticulating wildly over the book.

Great reviews. I may have to read his column regularly from now on. 😄