Monday, 6 February 2012

Albedo One #41

Albedo One - Issue #41
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

Issue #41 of Albedo One is definitely a mixed bag. While there are enjoyable tales to be had, most interestingly from the winners of the International Aeon Award 2010 Short Fiction Contest and one of the winning stories from the 2010 John West Fantasy Writing Competition; there were still a good few that didn't quite work for reasons of being either too surreal, too gross or not enough appeal in the main characters.

My favourite story in this issue would have to be the 3rd place winner of the 2010 Aeon Award - A Room of Empty Frames by Robin Maginn. It's an atmospheric tale which carefully pulls together pieces of an intriguing mystery involving a missing artist and the pictures he left behind. The hints of the shape of the story tease without giving an obvious resolution but there's a nice enough feel to it that any lack of definite answers are unimportant.

The 1st place winner of the Aeon Award, Aethra by Michalis Manolios (translated from its original Greek by Thalia Bisticas) makes for uncomfortable reading. It's a story that shows the systematic abuse of clones created by a famous artist who makes not only her artwork but also her pets and furniture out of clones of herself, and it's the loving detail applied to showing this spectacle that brings a certain amount of wincing. The story itself is interesting enough - a murder investigation where the artist is the prime suspect, and as you would expect with so many clones about the house, the final answers aren't simple.

From the winner of the Fantasy Writing Competition (& winner in the Junior Secondary Category) is the fun story Ways of Making Math More Interesting by Lauren Mulvihill. There's a nifty Alice in Wonderland vibe to this as the heroine of the tale is thrown into a world of anthropomorphic numbers and must do battle with the evil Minuses to rescue the Common Denominator.

On the down side, Lost Highway Travelers by Judy Klass didn't really work - it's a rambling story about country music and musicians whose subtler nuances are obviously lost on me. Likewise Demon by Bruce McAllister which was a slog of excessive navel gazing that quickly lost my attention.

I had hoped for something better from Eric Brown in his story Differences, but I found it rather flat with too much space taken on selling the world without giving a reason to care much about the main character and the trouble they find themselves in, and the ending tried too hard to create a fanfare of something that only merited a vague shrug.

So not the best issue of Albedo One I've ever read, as, despite some intriguing premises, the final execution fell short too many times.

Albedo One is available in print and PDF versions from their website here.

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