“The Omniscient Codex to the Perfect Relationship” by Uchechukwu Nwaka in Translunar Travelers Lounge is a choose-your-own-adventure story where the reader goes through a relationship in which every path leads to a breakup, and how even an on-paper perfect relationship isn’t unequivocally perfect because of the vicissitudes of humanity. The choose-your-own-adventure subgenre is typically freeing, and this technically abides by that because you there are choices, but it’s contrasted with a fate that’s uniform no matter its direction. It’s an original take on that form, and its ambition will stick with me. “Alternate” by Kristen Koopman branches out too – in different universes. Naomi and her close friend Iris have been trapped inside Iris’s school project, in which they hop around from universe to universe, but only Naomi is cognizant of the situation, while Iris forgets each universe’s happenings as she jumps into another and another. What follows could’ve been chaotic in lesser hands, but Koopman manages to interweave the jerky story with a strong core. Things spiral, but never spiral out of control.
Lightspeed offers great stories in all sizes, but my favorite happens to be one of the shortest. “Four Years Minus Twelve Days” by Samantha Murray follows a human narrator who falls in love with an alien named Vo. The catch is that the alien race is reborn every four years (minus twelve days) with their memories gone, which means romance has a time limit because it’s clear that the alien will forget, but the human narrator’s love will burn for much longer. Lyrical, and somehow both heartbreakingly and upliftingly romantic. “Our Exquisite Delights” by Megan Chee is, well, an exquisite delight, and so much more. It’s a portal fantasy in which countless doors lead to beautifully grotesque satiations of hunger, grief, anger, and more. One door lets you redo your past hangups whether it be peacefully or violently, and another door lets you eat anything. It’s a story where I can see a multitude of different meanings being drawn from it, but what I took from it was the choice between being endlessly consumed by a respite where the past can’t haunt you, but the future can’t come to you, or wanting to live in the present where the past does haunt but a potentially hopeful future beckons. No matter how you look at it, this story is incredible. On a slightly longer side, “Crystalline” by Daniel H. Wilson follows the narrator’s ominous discovery in a mysterious cavern where upon discovering a crystal with seemingly omnipotence, his wife, Hannah, is attacked by a horrific creature therein. He thinks he can use the power of the crystal to bring her back, but surmises that it manifests evil thoughts, thus making adults using it a bad idea. Luckily for him, he has a daughter. You’ll have to read the story to see if things go his way, but I will say the ending is memorable.
“Four Years Minus Twelve Days”, Samantha Murray (Lightspeed 3/22)
“Our Exquisite Delights”, Megan Chee (Lightspeed 3/22)
“Alternate” Kristen Koopman (Translunar Travelers Lounge 2/22
“The Omniscient Codex to the Perfect Relationship” by Uchechukwu Nwaka (Translunar Travelers Lounge 2/22)
Sean Dowie is a writer and editor living in Toronto, Canada. He’s an Assistant Editor at Augur Magazine, contributor at the fanzine Nerds of a Feather, and is on FIYAH Literary Magazine’s book reviewing team. When not obsessing over literary activities, he’s usually directing short films.
This review and more like it in the July 2023 issue of Locus.
While you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.
©Locus Magazine. Copyrighted material may not be republished without permission of LSFF.