Welcome to Summer Shorts, a summer feature of short story/novella reviews, posted every Saturday of July and August, 2011. I am going to try to have a different theme every week - be it featuring a specific anthology, a particular genre, or a great author.
Last week I reviewed two stories from the infamous anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, but this week I'm reviewing stories from the fantastic on-line science fiction magazine Lightspeed.
One of the really cool things that Lightspeed offers is a podcast version of their stories. In other words, audio-stories! I am not an audiobook fan, but I loved being able to listen to these tales. They are very well read and really made the stories even more enjoyable.
Amaryllis by Carrie Vaughn
Thoughts: Amaryllis is simply stunning. It is everything you could possibly want from a science fiction tale. It deals with new governments, new ways of thinking, and in this case, new ways of considering the environment. Amaryllis is set in a world where moderation is key; one where the world had suffered enough from our desire to expand. And while the control mechanisms placed on people seem outrageous to 21st century eyes, they aren't evil. In fact, they are purely meant to help.
In terms of characters, Vaughn more than delivers. The story is narrated by the captain of the Amaryllis ship, a woman who has suffered her whole life because of the thoughtlessness of her mother. She's strong yet terrified of the establishment... I really grew to care for her, which is more than I can say for a lot of narrators! The rest of the Amaryllis crew were equally as endearing - especially the sweet, innocent Nina who starts off seeming rather childish but grew on me before the end.
Amaryllis is one of four finalists for Best Short Story in the 2011 Hugo Awards. Congrats to Vaughn - it is fantastic to see such a deserving story get some official recognition!
Bottom line? Amaryllis is a striking story set in a realistic, somewhat-heart-wrenching universe. Adoration will ensue.
Sweet Sixteen by Kat Howard
Thoughts: I can't say I was over-the-moon about Sweet Sixteen, but it was fairly enjoyable. The story is set in a world where girls are divided into Tiffanys and Rosalinds and Elizabeths, and given all the characteristics that go along with those names. Literally given those characteristics, injected with new DNA to make them the ideal Rosalind.
I liked the premise, but I wasn't too keen on the main character. She was the type of teenager I loathe -whiny and self-centred. I couldn't see past her to fully sympathise with her situation. Had Sweet Sixteen been narrated by a different girl, one not so easy to dislike, I might have loved this story. Alas, we'll never know.
Bottom line? Kat Howard delivers an interesting universe narrated by a loathsome teenager. Good but not great.
Check out Lightspeed Magazine for more great science fiction stories - and don't forget to subscribe!