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Black Static Nine – Feb/Mar 2009
Edited by Andy Cox
Cover Artist: David Gentry
Review by Sam Tomaino
TTA Press  ISBN/ITEM#: 1753-0709
Date: 27 February 2009

Links: Black Static Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

Black Static #9 is here with new stories by Aliette de Bodard, Tim Lees, Roz Clarke, Daniel Kaysen, Al Robertson, and Stephen Volk, together with the usual fascinating articles and reviews.

Even though I reviewed Black Static last month, #9 arrived in my mailbox just in time for me to review it. All the stories got a very good from me..

The fiction in this issue begins with one of my favorite new writers, Aliette de Bodard. Her bio tells us that she is half-French and half-Vietnamese, which explains the frequent Asian locales of her stories. "The Lonely Heart" takes place in modern day China. Chen runs a little curio stall and is unnerved one day when a skinny little girl handles a little statue of a demon. She feels sorry for the girl and more so when an evil-looking man, who is obviously her pimp, takes her away and warns Chen, "Don't meddle in my affairs". That night, the girl, whose name is Xia, appears at the door of her home and she takes her in. The story then takes a very surprising, but dark turn. This was my favorite story in the issue.

The setting of "The Plain" by Tim Lees, could not be further from China, the campus of a university, some where in Great Britain. Nick Balchin is a professor there and has noticed something odd about the rest of the faculty. They seem to have a bestial quality, buried deep within and hidden. We learn this through his thoughts and his conversations with a psychologist. The story gets more eerie as it goes along until an end which will really bring you up short. This was a perfect little story.

Roz Clarke's "Haunt-Type Experience" takes place entirely from the viewpoint of Megan, who works for a ghost-hunting type group run by Dan. At her current location, she is having disturbing visions that relate to her regular life. This was a fairly effective tale.

When you begin "The Pain of Blue Eyes" by Daniel Kaysen, you think you are going to get another clichéd story about teenage bullies. Brian is the typical skinny kid that is victimized by bullies, until he meets Richie, "with painfully sharp blue eyes". Richie becomes his protector, but also his abuser. This continues until Richie brings someone else into their group, a beautiful young woman named Anna Lee Lexington. Things change and not in a way you'd expect in this seriously chilling tale.

Al Robertson contributes a distinctly unnerving piece in "Changeling". Robert, a former soldier in some desert country (presumably Iraq) has married into a family that has a great Manor House on the edge of a deep wood. His wife, Elizabeth, was drunk one night and told him about her childhood when she and her sister, Laura, had played with Old Friends in the wood. Robert lives in the Manor House with his wife and their two daughters and sister-in-law Laura inhabits a separate section of the house. As the story proceeds, the affect of the Old Friends on the family increases leading to a grim finish. This was a worthy addition to the stories about the Fair Folk.

The issue concludes with "Fear" by Stephen Volk. Set in Japan, during the Heisam era, the Emperor hears of the far-off town of Orobi in which the people live in fear of the spirits of the dead. The dead take away one of the townspeople every night. He sends his most fearless samurai, Hojo, to deal with the matter. This was a brief tale but quite good.

Once again, I highly recommend that you subscribe!

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