Review of Joanna Maciejewska’s Short Story “Black Eyes, Luminous Monsters”

springSince I’ve received my copy of The Cloaked Press science fiction anthology Spring Into SciFi 2019, which features my short story “The Recall,” I started reading some of the other stories. The first one was “Black Eyes, Luminous Monsters” by Joanna Maciejewska.

Okay, I hated the title but loved the story. We are taken into a world at war, but it is between the human colonists on the planet and a strange and highly lethal alien biomass called “The Anomaly.” Trapped in a bunker, a medic named Kyara is tending to a wounded and likely dying soldier when the Anomaly attacks. The only way to escape is to retreat to the evac zone, but the biomass grabs Kyara and she knows she has only seconds to live.

The humans have a single defense, beings called Stabilizers or “Stabs” which have the ability to combat the Anomaly. The problem is that the Stabs are just as dangerous, and spending any time in the presence of one could also be deadly. During the fight between the Anomaly and the Stab, Kyara passes out, sure that she’s about to die.

The miraculousness of her survival and the unprecedented interest in her by the Stab who supposedly saved her is almost more puzzling than her strange blindness. However, it is in this dark world that she finally understands the Stab’s nature and her own destiny. Then she also discovers a horrible effect the Anomaly has on humans, one that has been kept completely secret, until now.

Although this short tale is a complete story, there’s a lot more going on here than is explained, and this could easily be expanded into a novella or a novel. Okay, even a series of short stories.

The anthology’s forward was written by Ian Hugh McAllister, author of the novel To Visit Earth. In part, his comments illustrate some of why I found Maciejewska’s story appealing:

In many ways, the Cloaked Press compilation series ‘Spring Into SciFi/Fall Into Fantasy’ harks back to those 1950s era pulp magazines I grew up with. Ferrell is encouraging some of the brightest new writers in exactly the same way that Editors such as John W. Campbell did with [Hal] Clement in Astounding, publishing an early version of his first Mesklin book ‘Mission of Gravity’ as a serial in ‘Astounding’ during 1953.

That’s certainly high praise. Oh, way back in the day, I read Mission of Gravity in novel form.

Can’t wait to get into some of the other stories.

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