30 March 2018


Not much actual reading for me recently. Well, I'm gradually working through Tim Peake's Ask an Astronaut, but that's non-fic and I'm mostly reading little bits at a time. The baby was having some sleep-regression/teething/eczema issues, so evenings and a few nights have been interrupted. Hopefully he's working through that now. Still listening to podcasts on my commute whenever I don't have the baby with me.

Scar Clan by Carrow Narby (Podcastle 512, narrated by Becky Stinemetze)
About a woman who works in a vets late at night and helps patch up local werewolves. She encounters a fat werewolf nicknamed Thunderhead, mean and reckless even for a werewolf. The story shows us the nighttime work of the veterinarian and how she helps the werewolf population and keeps their existence unofficial. We learn about the narrator; her own history with werewolves, and her ritual of getting a tattoo to cover/comemorate scars. We see that daytime and humans aren't necessarily safer and that being a monster isn;t about whether you can change shape.

The Fumblers Alley Risk Emporium by Julian Mortimer Smith (Podcaste 511, narrated by Wilson Fowlie)
An intriguing story set in what intitially seems to be a magical shop, but is actually somewhere much stranger, where the proprietor runs a strange game of chance where the stakes can be seemingly anything. It is told from the point of view of a regular, but one who is in a desperate frame of mind, which lends a tense edge to all that trasnspires. It is a story full of mystery, including the cause of the narrator's desperation, the nature of what he wants and the identity of his tormentor.

A Study in Symmetry or the Chance Encounter of an Android and a Painter by Jamie Lackey (Escape Pod 619, narrated by Trendane Sparks and Divya Breed)
This was so sweet and lovely, as well as being really well done. It's about HK182 and Lawrence going about their days; she is contented as usual, he is hungover and vulnerable. Then there's the chance encounter and further meetings, and it works on an emotional and story level. The Dual narration works really well as the story focuses on each character's POV and captures their different mindsets very well. The contrast between human artist and android landscaper is strong, but the interest they have in each other and the growing areas of compatibility are built up really well. Definitely a story to cheer you up.

A Cure For Homesickness by S. L. Scott  (Escape Pod 617, narrated by Eric Luke)
An insectile being is confused by his human crewmate coming back to save him during a dangerous mission. When her rescue attempt leads to injury he ensures that she is cared for, and whilst talking to her as a distraction he diagnoses her with homesickness.  The captain's cure is bizarre, but fellow humans will likely find it adorable. This story works really well because the clash of cultures and mindsets doesn't stop there from being much respect and affection between the characters. It's a great example of crewmates-as-community, a sci-fi trope I enjoy more and more. It's often cool to see humans from an 'alien' perspective, to have our foibles played back to us to expose how weird they are. The ending is pretty cute. Max struck me as a fun character, very clearly American/Western, and her attitude contrasted strongly with Krem, the main character who comes from a strongly communal society. The story made me think of Becky Chambers work, especially Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

My Generations Shall Praise by Samantha Henderson (Escape Pod 616, narrated by Alethea Kontis)
This was difficult and powerful. It's super dark which isn't normally my scene, but it was so well done and somehow intriguing . The narrator does good work to make the horrible POV character somehow understandable despite being a sociopathic baby-killer. That took real skill and the narrator deserves praise for her amazing performance. The central SF concept is intriguing and the ramifications of how things could work out are fascinating, while also being kinda awful whichever way you look at it. There's a conundrum at the heart of the story, which keeps your intellect occupied even as your emotions are reeling. I think the dispassionate voice of the main character, who relates horrors in a matter-of-fact way, is what kept it from being too much for me. I felt really bad for the main character's daughter, poor girl was surrounded by such awfulness and barely spoken of with affection. It's interesting that the respectable, wealthy woman in the story came off almost as cold and hard as the murderer; the story could spark discussion of how someone's background influences their outcome.

It's hard to blithely recommend this story, as it could easily be too much for people, there's reference to murders and sexual assault, and no sense of remorse. I'm surprised I managed to enjoy it, I must've been in the right frame of mind, or perhaps it helped that I was travelling while I heard it. If you do listen, maybe have one of the happier stories I mentioned further up ready to go as a pick-me-up.

An American Refugee by Tiah Maria Beautement (Cast of Wonders 295, narrated by Julia Rios)
A story set in a future where Americans have fled their country and are being accepted by other nations, we see a girl in South Africa getting used to being allowed to run outside and meeting one of her future schoolmates. As the story unfolds we find out more about the narrative character, her family and their uneasy status as refugees. We also gradually find out more about the situation in the US. It sounds like a dystopia, but it's eerie in it's plausibility. Sadly there are loads of actual people who would applaud the awful measures we see in the character's reminisce. It's also a story about a boy and girl meeting. The host of this episode makes some good points about how difficult being a teenager can be, and how things are made worse for many people.

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