Short Fiction Sunday: February Highlights

Here are my favorite stories of February, I read about forty stories last month so it was a bit hard to narrow it down to only six! All the stories mentionned are quite different from another but I loved them all. If the story is available to read for free online, I provided a link! 😀

Clarkesworld #147

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Master Zhao: The Tale of an Ordinary Time Traveler by Zhang Ran – 4/5

A unemployed man meets a peculiar delivery man. Master Zhao always seems to know what is going to happen next, he’s never late and he’s never surprised by the weather. 

This story plays with one of my favorite trope: parallel universes! I love how it was executed. Zhang Ran really played with this idea: the time traveler isn’t trying to save his world, he doesn’t want to famous, he just wants to live a normal life with his wife. He’s not even the real hero of this story. The main protagonist is the very ordinary unemployed man. 

I tend to always really enjoy the Chinese translated stories published by Clarkesworld, and this particular story was no exception! I liked the plot, the pacing and the characters. I also loved how it ended, I don’t think it could have ended any other ways.

You can read this story here.

 

Two-Year Man by Kelly Robson – 5/5

I mentionned just before that I love the translated Chinese stories in Clarkesworld, I also love their reprints!  It’s a great way to discover or rediscover stories that were published previously in other magazines and anthologies.

Set in a dystopian future, this story follows a “two-year” man, In this future, people are divided into casts and two-year men are considered the lowest of the low. They have to do all the dirty and unpleasant work, the main protagonist’s job is to incinerate failed experiments. One day, he discovers that one of such experiment is a malformed child. He cannot throw him in the fire and he decides to bring him back home.

This was less than 5000 words but it discussed some very interesting themes and societal issues. If you liked Brave New World, I would highly recommend this story. I especially liked how it discussed motherhood and how women’s bodies are seen differently during and after pregnancy. 

You can read this story here.

Interzone #271

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When I Close My Eyes – Chris Barnham – 4.5/5

An astronaut is nearly killed by the fall of a rock during a mission on Titan. He just lost her wife and when he closes his eyes, he’s haunted his memories. He knows he should have told someone about his hallucinations before leaving on the mission but he had to go. What he doesn’t know is that is only way to survive the accident is to follow the stange visions he has.

This a very sad little story, the main character is grieving the loss of his wife and he doesn’t know if what he’s seeing is actually here of if he’s imagining it. If you liked stories narrated by unreliable narrators, I would recommend this one. It shares a lot of similar themes and ideas with Spaceman of Bohemia such as how to deal with gried, madness and the possible presence of aliens. However, I think that this story is way better than Spaceman of Bohemia

The Outcast Hours edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

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I have already reviewed this anthology and, in the review, I made a list of my nine favorite stories. However, I thought I needed to talk about some of the stories again in case you missed them so I did a selection of the selection!  If you want to know more about my other favorites, please check out my review! 🙂

Ambulance Service by Sami Shah – 5/5

Following an ambulance in a night shift in Karachi, what starts off as pretty regular story slowly shifts as we learn that the main character is an exorcist and that he deals with strange creatures haunting people.

It managed to take me by surprise quite a few times which I wasn’t expecting considering how short it is. The ending was fascinating, I really grew to love the characters and I would love to read other stories set in this mysterious version of Karachi.

Dark Matters – Cecilia Ekback – 5/5

A young girl tries her best to keep her family from falling apart when her dad keeps on dying and resurrecting, messing up their quiet family life.

In this story, Death is a character who tries and miserably fail on killing the father. Death is very frustrated because people are not supposed to resurrect and it definitely wasn’t part of the plan!

This story is delightfully quirky, the characters are all amazing, I have to especially make a special mention to the grandmother and Death who were both amazing characters. It’s on the longer side compared to most of the stories of this anthology but I wouldn’t change or take away a single word.

Gatsby – Maha Khan Philips – 5/5

A girl is invited to Great Gatsby themed New Year’s Eve party in Karachi. She just lost her bestfriend and she’s definitely not in the mood for partying. She doesn’t even know the host, she only know of  him: he’s filthy rich, from the USA and he invited about four hundred people to his party.

While she’s trying to stay far away from the festivities, she meets him. He’s nice, too nice perhaps but he has laughing lines and he’s kind, very kind, until he isn’t.

This story is one of my favorite from the collection, everything is so unexpected, it’s full of twists and turns and that ending was very unexpected. It’s very dark and creepy but memorable for sure!

This is it for my February picks! What stories sound the most intriguing to you? Have you read short stories this month? 😀

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