Shimmer – Number 11
Edited by Guest Editor: George Mann
Editor-in-Chief: Beth Wodzinski
Cover Artist: Andrew Chase
Review by Sam Tomaino
Date: 28 December 2009
Links: Shimmer / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Shimmer Number 11 is here and is one of their theme issues. I have especially liked them in the past and this one The Clockwork Jungle Book issue featuring steampunk animal fables, does not disappoint.
The stories begin with "Shedding Skin: Or How the World Came to Be" by Jay Lake, an origin story. It features a mechanical Snake, that old trickster Coyote, Old Man Spark's Garden and Spark's only daughter Lithe Lil. The story might be a bit familiar, but Lake puts his own unique spin on it for a fine start to this issue.
In "The Jackdaw's Wife", Blake Hutchins gives us the character of Jackdaw, who builds a mechanical wife he names Jilldaw, much to the displeasure of his female friend, Badger. Things don't work out as planned in this nice little fable.
Jess Nevins's "The Student and the Rats" is another story that might seem familiar. Let's say that a certain German medical student experiments on mechanical rats before moving on to something bigger in this really clever tale.
Shweta Narayan relates how a young ruler learns a lesson in "The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Muhammed Akbar". The Emperor of the title learns that building a mechanical bird that's too good may not be a good thing. This one had a beautiful prose style and told a perfect little story.
In "Kay's Box" by Marissa Lingen, Kay is a mechanical monkey that seems to have achieved sentience. At the least, he is smarter than his master and builder, Arthur. Arthur takes Kay on tour but whatever Kay does is just credited to Arthur. Things do work out in this clever piece.
"Otto's Elephant" by Vincent Pendergast is the story of a boy named Otto whose job it is to ride and control his master's mechanical elephant. He loves this, but one day a stranger arrives and tells him some curious stories. This was another story which had a nice little ending and it was fun getting to it.
Susannah Mandel's "The Monkey and the Butterfly" is set in the city of London, in which a beautiful parlor cat in the home of a lady entrances all the other animals in the neighborhood: a Bulldog, a Spitz, a Terrier, a Spaniel and, most importantly, a Monkey, imported from Africa who lives across the way. All these pay court and call upon the Cat on a regular basis. The Monkey wants to impress the Cat by building something special for her. He does and the entire story is told just beautifully.
The "Message in a Bottle" in the story by James Maxey was not found by the seashore, but in outer space. This is the start of a fascinating tale about an early voyage to the moon by three men against their will and what happened to them. What they encounter there makes for a great story and one not easily forgotten.
"The Clockwork Cat's Escape" by Gwynne Garfinkle is a very brief, but poignant tale of a clockwork cat that is slowly running down and takes the only way out. Garfinkle tells this very effectively in barely more than one page.
In "The Wolf and the Schoolmaster", by James L. Cambias, Captain Volka is a mechanical wolf that has had to do a disagreeable job to help restore the kingdom he serves. He finds that things are not to his liking in the new regime and does something about it in another well-written tale.
Genevieve Valentine gives us a mechanical garden, instead of a bestiary in "A Garden in Bloom". Pieter van der Rijsen is a rich man proud of his mechanical garden. A little girl sees it but claims real flowers are better. Pieter proposes a contest and we get a wonderfully wry ending to this one.
"And How His Audit Stands" by Lou Anders is an alternate history in which machines are run by "Phlogiston Flasks" which contain the souls of people convicted of crimes. The problem is that the locomotives that are run like this, sometimes hop the tracks and go off on their own. A young man named Birmingham is good at tracking these errant engines down, but somehow the Flasks are broken, releasing the souls to the afterlife. He has been warned about this and must now hunt down one of these runaways who he has become friends with. What is really going on makes for a fine story and a truly imaginative one.
"The Story in Which Dog Dies" by Sara Genge is a bittersweet, beautiful tale about the last man on Earth and his dog. I cannot really say more, only that this is another good story from Sara Genge.
In "A Red One Cannot See" by Barbara A. Barnett, Philibert is a lémur-homme who is traveling back to his home of New Madagascar to try to improve the lives of the lemurs that have been left behind. He walks on two legs and talks like a human, but he has refused treatments that would allow him to see the color red. There is more that he cannot see in this touching tale.
Amal El-Mohtar's "The Fishbowl" is about mechanical fish in a huge tank. They had been developed some years ago when real fish had been almost entirely wiped out. A Doctor Montrousse has discovered a way to communicate with these creatures and extract fairly accurate prophecies from them. The downside is that this involves killing the real fish that still exist. Things come to a head in another wonderful story.
The setting of "His Majesty's Menagerie" by Chris Roberson seems to be an alternate India. Tippu Sultan of Khudada is using rocketmen and clockwork tigers to invade Travancore. He is succeeding and has visions of ruling all India. His plans are foiled by Travancore's British allies and their steam elephants. How can he stop the elephants? He employs another clockwork animal and Roberson, once more, shows his talent as a wordsmith.
"The Emperor's Gift" by Rajan Khanna features a craftsman named Syam, who is trying to keep his daughter, Zhen, alive by building a clockwork panda to delight her. But the Emperor wants this device for his third wife. How this all works out makes for a touching story.
In "The Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi", Peter M. Ball tells us about a man called the Smokestack Magi who lives in the darkest streets of Unden. The Magi builds things for the nobles and merchants of the court, but will only allow strange creatures, like a hippogriff or a mermaid, enter through his door. One day a clockwork goat knocks at the door. The Smokestack Magi does not open it for four days and when he does, the goat states that he comes in peace from the Smokestack Magi's rival, The Lord Magi of the Smokestack. The Smokestack Magi distrusts this and does not let him in. Over the course of many days, he asks the goat many questions. This all sets up a series of events that make for another fine fable.
Althea Kontis' "The Giant and the Unicorn" is a beautiful story. "In the beginning", the Toymaker fashions: a Box; the heavens and the stars; cogs, wheels, grasses and trees; the animals (bear, fox, dragon, griffin, monkey and unicorn); the Giant in his own image and finally "Sentience and Symbotics" to breathe life into the world. These were all done over the course of six years and in the seventh year, the Toymaker dies. This leaves the Giant in charge, but he goes mad after seven more years. What can be done? The youngest unicorn decides to help and we get another worthy addition to this issue.
Last of all, there is "Mockmouse" by Caleb Wilson. The mice in a house are starving. Along comes Mockmouse who offers his help. Can they trust him? We find out in a story which rounds out this issue perfectly.
This was a flawless issue Shimmer and a big thick one, too. Get this issue and, better yet, subscribe!