The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria
by Carlos Hernandez
Cover Artist: Bizhan Khodabandeh
Review by Sam Tomaino
Rosarium Publishing Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781495607394
Date: 01 January 2016 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria is a collection of stories by Carlos Hernandez. I know some of the stories have been published elsewhere, but they are all worth reading.
The collection begins with "The Aphotic Ghost" -+- Our narrator tells us about Everest's Death Zone, a part of the mountain where when people die there while climbing, no one takes the trouble to bring their bodies down. Our narrator tells us that he is determined to bring his son's body back down out of there. What's great is the detours the story takes from there, an aspect of Hernandez's writing that will recur throughout this volume.
"Homeostasis" -+- Angela's husband is stabbed in the head during a robbery. He is still alive, but he has sustained serious brain damage. A new technology called eneural, a small computer, can restore brain functions. But is this really her husband? Nicely done conclusion in this very good story.
"Entanglements" -+- Our narrator. Jesús has been having a affair with a woman named Karen. He finds out she is married when her husband, Chase, is badly wounded in action when an IED takes out both of his legs below the knee. He also can no longer have children. Despite the situation, our narrator still has feelings for Karen and wants to help the both of them. He is a scientist who works with a process called "superportation" that allows translating information from alternate universes. In this enclosed area called the Classical Information Aggregator, Chase could become fully able to make love to his wife. From there, things get even more complicated. Great little character study.
"The International Studbook of the Giant Panda" -+- Gabrielle Reál is a reporter for the San Francisco Squint. Her assignment is to do a report on the American Panda Mission. But this is not a simple interview. The staff at the APM don giant Panda suits which operate remote animal robots miles away with real pandas nearby. They simulate sex and the robots are designed to inspire the real pandas to mate and ameliorate the population decline. This is so much like bestiality that a terrorist group that calls itself 22:19 (after a verse in Exodus against bestiality) has tried violently to shut them down. Gabby is going to use the female suit, named Funnicello, with her ex-boyfriend in the male suit, named Avalon. She has even been given drugs to simulate the panda experience. Got that? This is, indeed, another unusual story with a good payoff.
"The Macrobe Conservation Project" -+- This story is a dark little tale that starts out light as the adventures of a young boy on a space station. He lives there with is father and a robot duplicate of his mother and brother who have stayed on Earth. Things take a very dark turn, however. Nice build-up to the ending.
"Los Simpáticos" -+- Our narrator is Desideria Belén Ayute, the sixty-one-year-old executive producer of a reality TV show in which they find people willing to hire a hitman and getting them to tell the details. The hitman is played by an actor named Xavier Morales, whose face is pixilated out on the show. For one sequence, they are setting up a young man and his grandmother pays them money to call it off. Before they can pay her the money back, the actor is found dead, an apparent suicide. This sets a great murder mystery that will surprise you with its conclusion.
"More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give" -+- The story is about a man who was born in Cuba but is now fully Americanized. His mother was executed by Che Guevera. She famously defied him when he had her shot by a firing squad. He is contacted by a man who says he can bring her soul out of the bullet hole in the adobe wall that was the backdrop for the execution. They just have to find something (or someone) in which the soul can reside. Antoher very imaginative tale with some great twists.
"Bone of My Bone" -+- A man finds a bone growing out of his head. Strange enough but the end of this nice little story will surprise you again.
"The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory" -+- Unicorns have slipped into our world from an alternate dimension. Unfortunately, they are being hunted out of existence because people are convinced their horns have magical properties. Our narrator, Gabrielle Reál again, has to find a way to help a little girl who was being used as bait for a unicorn who is mortally wounded. A story with real heart.
"American Moat" -+- What happens when vigilantes patrolling the US-Mexican border encounter real aliens? Another great tale!
"Fantasie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66" -+- Gabrielle Reális researching a new story about a special piano that has had the personality of a dead pianist imprinted on it. The pianist's wife had religious objections to this and finds a very good way to deal with it. Just perfect!
The collection concludes with the title story, "The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria" -+- A young boy uses a version of his father's religion to help him deal with the death of his mother. Perfect coda to this collection.
This is an excellent volume and Hernandez is a talented writer. I loved every tale in this book. Buy it and see for yourself.