Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
This month's issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is a mixed bag. The cover art by David Renn is slightly a notch down from the other Clarkesworld covers but it's still a good piece with its nautilus-inspired mecha. My biggest complaint is probably the fiction side which leans more towards the mediocre rather than remarkable but on the other hand, I really loved the non-fiction section.
The feature piece is "Idle Roomer" by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. The story started out strong with its mystery vibe and there was enough hints of something strange and otherworldly. Both authors succeed in making the protagonist sympathetic and do a competent job of fabricating the story's end. There's honestly nothing wrong with the story and it's well-written but my issue with it is that it failed to strike a chord. Resnick and Robyn do a good job of establishing build-up and our heroine does feel like a genuine character. Where it could have done better though was the ending which lacked the impact I was hoping for but otherwise a decent read.
Cat Rambo's reading of "Idle Roomer" fits the ambiance and mood of the story. She reads it at a steady pace which is appropriate for what "Idle Roomer" is trying to accomplish.
"Batch 39 and the Deadman's Switch" by Simon DeDeo was a bit confusing. I had to re-read it and do some quick research (i.e. Google) to identify all the jargon that DeDeo uses. This is mainly a story that hinges upon the punchline at the end and again, much like "Idle Roomer", the concept could have been fascinating but the execution was ho-hum. In the case of DeDeo, I feel that his attempt at trying to be too scientific hurt the story with his inclusion of a lot of nomenclature. This is clearly a concept story which explains the lack of characterization on the part of the narrator but DeDeo does manage to sneak in some good lines such as his description of the character Rachel. Other than that, a competent story but nothing remarkable.
Jason S. Ridler takes the perspectives of various authors in "Writing with One Hand Tied to the Death Star: Award-Winning Authors and Media Tie-In Fiction". Quite informative and showcases various opinions on the subject from the interviewed authors. For the most part it's an enjoyable read and everyone involved tries to remain balanced and open-minded.
What I really liked was Catherynne M. Valente's "Voodoo Economics: How to Find Serenity in an Industry that Does Not Want You" but then again, I'm the perfect target audience: an aspiring writer. Valente shares her tribulations as a writer and one reality we all have to face. Her insertion of steel as an analogy is commendable and makes the article upbeat and informal.
Overall this is an issue where the non-fiction section clearly stands out, especially Valente's piece.