- The Parliament of Beasts and Birds by John C. Wright
There is a reason why speculative fiction magazines encourage writers not to submit stories with talking animals. What a wretched story this is. It is another deeply religious from Wright, but isn’t remotely on the level of Pale Realms of Shade by Wright or On a Spiritual Plain.
- Turncoat by Steve Rzasa
I don’t have any complaints for Rzasa’s tale of a ship-AI that changes sides when it realizes its “enhanced human” allies have found regular humanity obsolete, but I don’t have any particular praise either.
- On a Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli
What if ghosts became real? On a Spiritual Plain is written from the POV of a military chaplain garrisoned on a distant planet. Living aliens and the spirits of their dead coexist side by side due to the planet’s strong magnetic field. That leads to the appearance of a ghost when the first member of the garrison dies on-planet. It’s an interesting enough concept, if somewhat less so in execution.
- Totaled by Kary English
In Totaled a researcher who dies (i.e., is “totaled” in a car accident when it is determined the cost to fix her exceeds her “worth”) and finds her consciousness used to continue her work on neuroscience. A very interesting concept and notably well told.
- A Single Samurai by Steven Diamond
“How does one kill a mountain? Somehow.” A Single Samurai is stock full of fabulous imagery of a mountain-sized kaiju “shedding the stone and foliage that covered it,” crisscrossed by animal trails, growing trees on its carapace, and “[g]reat rockslides cascade[ing] down the monster’s sides” as “[t]rees three times [the narrator’s] age . . . rip free from where they had rooted and tumble away.” It’s a story where samurai carry blades forged with a piece of the samurai’s soul. Blades that break a samurai’s soul if they break; swords that crumble into dust when the samurai dies.” It’s the story of such a samurai, reflecting on past encounters with oni and surviving present encounters with great cat-esque creatures with rock-like back carapaces, as he fatalistically scales the kaiju in what he is sure is a doomed quest. Great imagery, great story.