BOOK REVIEW

Cabinet of Wonders: Cosmic Jazz, Gender Norms & A Culinary Circus

Otto Griebling

“La tiare d’argent” by Fernand Khnopff, 1911, public domain

Phantom Limbs, Terrible Neighbors & A Half-hearted Love God

Enjoy variety and freshness in stories that flow along at a quick clip. This Cabinet features a serious contemplation of the fluidity of memory and time, explores the weird inherent in the manufactured perfection of suburbia and ends on a high, humorous note as Cupid tries to get his game back.

 

A Review of Phantom Pain by Eileen Gunn at Lightspeed Magazine

For no reason Ed could figure out, he was lying in bed, an ordinary bed in a nice house. No jungle, no rain, no library. He smelled ether. A blonde woman was rubbing ether on his left foot. It was icy cold where it hit the skin, and the heavy, sweet smell of it cut into his head. It hurt like hell, or maybe it was his leg in the jungle that hurt like hell. That’s Katie! he thought, looking at the woman. That’s Katie, but she’s blonde. A thin little boy and a round-faced girl were watching silently. He was not in his proper body: He had only one leg. Why is Katie rubbing ether on it, he wondered. What happened to the other one?

Ed ruminates on pain, war, girls, blood, mud, libraries and jungles. This stilted, image-rich account meanders through snapshots of memory. He exists in the in-between space, where a lifetime floats by and tangles, the good and bad twining together as fleeting and jarring as the phantom pain in his amputated leg.
Nebula-award-winning writer Eileen Gunn explores Ed’s dying mind with a matter-of-fact presentation of details jockeying for his attention. She transitions seamlessly between blended vignettes of here and now and there and then. While Ed’s emotions are diffused by the filter of time and mild confusion, a sense of gravity and significance shadows your reading. It’s not reading, in fact, it’s experiencing.

Read it HERE

 

A Review of Alice through the Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman at Nightmare Magazine

Because he could now hear what the music was, and it wasn’t aggressive, it posed no threat, it was charming, charming. And he felt the urge to go back inside, go and fetch Alice—yes, and Bobby too, wake him up, wake him and the dog, bring them all out for this. How much we take it for granted, thought Alan, when it plays on every television ad, when it’s pumped into every department store, when it’s allowed to define just one little month of the year, when it sells stuff—you get sick of it, or you screen it out—but now, here, in the middle of a July heat wave, how incongruous it sounds, how nostalgic. Memories of days long ago, when he was a child, when his mother was still alive, when his father still talked to him—and he felt his eyes pricking with happy tears, he should rush inside, get his family whilst the music lasted, this was a treat. But he didn’t go back inside. He didn’t want his family there. He didn’t want them, and the thought of that surprised him, and hurt him a bit, and somehow made him lighter too. And he stood on his porch, and listened, and basked in the little breeze he could feel, basked in the sound of Hark the Herald Angels Sing as it segued seamlessly into Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Alice and Alan are exceptional neighbors to Barbara and Eric. Distant and polite, perfect. But those new neighbors, the replacements for Barbara and Eric with their Stuff in brand-new boxes, they’re so inconsiderate. Christmas music at all hours of the night, won’t answer the door, stole that cup of sugar as a souvenir…all-around bad neighbors. All this indignity while Alan’s life spirals around him – work going poorly, son growing apart and Alice admitting to an affair.
Robert Shearman dials up neighborly antics to an extreme. The story churns along, gaining momentum and weirdness, culminating in a meeting most bizarre. Expect to grin (and maybe grimace) your way through with a hunger to know how this perfect suburban couple falls from grace.

Read it HERE

 

A Review of Some Cupids Kill With Arrows by Tansy Rayner Roberts at Uncanny Magazine

“So, you must be Hermes,” she accused the next man along the table, another Hollywood–gorgeous slab of everything with white teeth and sculpted muscle, though this one was spiky blond, and ran on sleeker lines than the mighty Hercules.

“Cupid,” said the blond, his forehead creasing slightly. “Why did you think I was Hermes?”

“Wings on your shoes. Cupid would have been my next guess—or Eros. I wasn’t sure if we were including Romans in the mix with the Ancient Greeks.”

“You figured us out fast,” he said, impressed.

Meg’s Masters in Comparative Mythology was an excellent investment. When speed dating with the gods, it helps to know who you’re talking to. She winds up in cahoots with Cupid to break up her friend Dee and new boyfriend Hercules before the relationship meets a deadly end. A few inconvenient truths later, Meg may be in more than cahoots…
Tansy Rayner Roberts artfully blends pithy humor and snappy sarcasm for this “love” story. It’s absurd, fantastic, clever and just plain funny. I’ll leave you with one more quote:
“I’m sorry,” said Meg. “Was I not giving you enough attention? Is my major life crisis interrupting your boner?”

Read it HERE

 

Cosmic Jazz, Gender Norms & A Culinary Circus

There’s something in the Cabinet for everyone this week (but be ready to have your reality challenged). Find God in music, find perspective on gender and find yourself in the center ring of a performance good enough to eat. Broaden your mind, broaden your assumptions – heck, broaden your palate.

 

A Review of The Rest is Noise by Nicholas Kaufmann at Nightmare Magazine

He tapped the Play icon and closed his eyes.

As Indigo’s trumpet began to blare in his ears and he drifted away, some renegade part of him wondered how many times he’d listened to the album now. He’d lost count.

He wondered what day of the week it was. He’d lost track.

But most of all, he wondered what those things were that had begun growing out of his back.

These three music-loving musketeers drift apart after college – and Andrew feels like he’s drifted the most. Years of distance separate him from friends Justin and Indigo, until he receives a mysterious email from Justin with Indigo’s newest album. An album that makes his ears bleed.
Is this experience transcendent or tragic? Is it an elevation of consciousness or a trip gone wrong? Decide for yourself if Indigo is channeling the music of God, or something more sinister.

Read it HERE

 

A Review of Sultana’s Dream by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein at Strange Horizons Magazine

“We have no hand or voice in the management of our social affairs. In India man is lord and master, he has taken to himself all powers and privileges and shut up the women in the zenana.”

“Why do you allow yourselves to be shut up?”

“Because it cannot be helped as they are stronger than women.”

“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

“But my dear Sister Sara, if we do everything by ourselves, what will the men do then?”

“They should not do anything, excuse me; they are fit for nothing. Only catch them and put them into the zenana.”

Sister Sara pulls no punches when a dreaming Sultana comes to visit. In her society, traditional Indian gender roles are reversed. Men are kept indoors – and, lo, crime ceased and efficiency increased. Men are naturally combative, right? We just want to protect them from their own innate weaknesses.
A healthy dose of sass highlights some of the fundamental flaws in assumptions about gender. Hossein isn’t questioning stereotypes gently – she’s hammering at them with Sister Sara’s words of wisdom. This is a saucy exploration of social norms – mind the sharp edges.

Read it HERE

 

A Review of Taste the Singularity at the Food Truck Circus by Jeremiah Tolbert at Lightspeed Magazine

I stared at the pigeon. It “stared” back. Finally, I mustered the courage to rip off its head. Near as I could tell, the entire bird was edible, although the inside was more air than breading. The taste was delicate, like rose petals. It only took a few minutes to consume, and I felt a little guilty afterward. I’d expected to find another note with directions to the next Circus. But nothing.

Step right up for tapeworms that recharge your devices, screaming gummy people and aerosol nostalgia. This gastronomic circus is full of rogue chefs and culinary oddities – all skating under the iron rule of the FDA.
Enjoy the vivid description of palatable – and unpalatable – delicacies. Enjoy the struggle of one accountant fighting his dreams of work with food. Enjoy the whimsy. Tolbert’s packaged a tasty tale for some light refreshment – bon apetit!

Read it HERE

More book reviews: