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2010 Stories 196 - 200

From the June, 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy:

196. Desaparecidos by Aliette de Bodard  I'll admit it took me a good page or so to get into this story.  I wasn't quite sure what the hook was at first, and what the snippets from a travel guide describing the area around the Crater of the Angels somewhere in Central America meant for the story.  But by the end of the first page, de Bodard has set forth a nice little mystery: why exactly has Patricia returned to this war-torn area looking for Tomas? Why are the black stones of the crater so attractive to her?  The story plays out strongly from there to an ending that makes perfect sense for the story that precedes it, and still leaves you wanting a little more without making the story feel incomplete.

197. Sultana Lena's Gift by Shweta Narayan This is the second Narayan story I've read recently, and it did not disappoint in comparison to the first.  Using the classic trope of a young sultan taking advice from a vizier (in this case, a mechanical bird called the Artificer) who gives said advice over several days in the form of the story of a young Sultana cursed with a gift that almost guarantees she will never be truly loved. I liked the way Narayan subtly tied the two story threads together without beating the reader over the head with the connection. Apparently, the Artificer bird has appeared in other stories, which I hope to seek out.

198. The Well of Forgetting by Meredith Simmons The format of this story almost turned me off, jumping as it does through various stages of the main character's life with not much in the way of segue from moment to moment. Once I was done with the story, I appreciated the form it took far more.  I don't think Simmons could have written the story in any other style and have had it turn out as powerfully as it did.  Hepta, the main character, is at first a social outcast because of her dreams and memories, and then a more-than-useful member of society, but does she ever really get to be her own person?  The story layers strong character onto a discussion of individual and community guilt and how we make excuses for our actions.

199. The Hearts of Men by T.L. Morganfield  I can't quite tell if it's Rick Riordan's fault or not, but there seem to be a lot more "ancient gods interact with modern teenagers" stories floating around since he wrote his first Percy Jackson book.  The phrase "ancient gods interact with modern teenagers," though, is just about the only thing Morganfield's story has in common with Riordan's books. Morganfield's story, of the reincarnation of some Mexicali gods in the American southwest in modern times, is a far far darker work, and the focus is on the reincarnated Huitzilopochtli and his hunger for human hearts on the path to do battle with his sister, who has stolen the moon.  The teenager in question plays a vital role in the story, but is not the center of it (although he may turn out to be the heart of it, pun intended).  It's a dark, dark story that I really enjoyed.

200. Fallen By Bruce Holland Rogers  What would you do if giant angels started falling to earth, at the same time your smoke-jumping fire-fighting team's luck seems to start running out?  This short, concise story, told in first person, introduces the mystery of the falling angels ... but the story isn't really about that mystery. That's just the stage setting for the main character's moral quandry.  What I liked about this story is that despite the fantasy set-up, the story could just as well have appeared in a mystery magazine or The New Yorker.  The genre is the set-up, but the questions the story asks are far more universal.  Rogers doesn't waste any words; at just two magazine pages (the shortest story in the issue) the story does exactly what it sets out to do and makes you find answers on your own.

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