Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
This month's issue of Clarkesworld is a reversal from my usual reviews of the magazine. The feature story, "Herding Vegetable Sheep," by Ekaterina Sedia, really caught my attention. It's not without its flaws--AOL the only brand name mentioned when it comes to consistency--but for the most part, it's a solid science fiction story. What impressed me is how Sedia tackles both the characterization and the concept with equal skill. When it comes to the former, there's no doubt that this is a very character-centric piece with the focus on Anita the grandmother. Each of the protagonists have depth and there are insights into the human condition such as "She is a high school friend, and thus our relationship combines a gradual distancing with an exaggerated sense of obligation." When it comes to the latter, Sedia covers a very modern concern, a cause that Cory Doctorow might rally against.
For the most part, Kate Baker's reading was impressive. What particularly struck me was how Baker voiced the mother who was supposed to be crying. When she speaks, she really sounds like she has a cold and perfect for the role. Aside from that, it's the usual fluent and steady voice that characterizes the other Clarkesworld podcasts.
"The Loyalty of Birds" by Rachel Sobel was decent. At times I had the sense that I've read all this before but overall, I feel that Sobel contributes something new to the high fantasy sub-genre. Like Sedia, Sobel takes a character-centric approach and we have this interplay between the main character and her ward. It's understated but the reader understands the guilt that the protagonist is suffering from at the same time delivering lines that stays true to character. The ending is also praise-worthy with its indirect approach.
Jeremy L. C. Jones interviews Tobias Buckell. It's a commendable article and gives us insight into Buckell's writing process but for the most part, it's fairly standard.
"Remake Love, Not War" by Daniel M. Kimmel isn't my cup of tea mainly because I'm not a movie buff but it does a decent job of explaining when genre movie remakes work and when they don't. As far as the writing is concerned, there's not much really to complain here as Kimmel does explains his points, but compared to the previous hard-hitting Clarkesworld non-fiction, it disappointed my expectations. Still, if you're looking to read a lighter and more mainstream piece, Kimmel delivers.
Then there's the results of the Reader's Poll which reveals the favorite stories and covers of Clarkesworld readers.
When it comes to the cover, "The Wish," by Harout Demirchyan, it's reminiscent of the artwork from Magic: The Gathering cards. This is mainly attributed to the color palette as it's brighter than the darker or neutral tones that graced the covers of Clarkesworld in the past few months. It's a great illustration, evoking more of a sense of fantasy than science fiction even if logic would dictate that the latter would be more prominent. I really enjoyed how those two genres interact in addition to its apt title which draws upon stories from tradition.
Overall this was a decent issue of Clarkesworld with me leaning more on the fiction side as far as quality is concerned.