Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Untilted, by K.A. Teryna

★★★★☆ Clever and Touching.

(Modern Fantasy (Russian)) Little Marcus walks the Moscow Metro at Midnight looking for stray animals and lost souls to heal. But he needs something too. (7,692 words; Time: 25m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘RSR+1 πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"," by (translated by Alex Shvartsman, edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 102, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2017.750 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Marcus’s grandmother took away too much of his pain; now he can’t feel her at all—or not enough, anyway. When he takes away the pain of others, he uses it to reach his grandmother again.
Dahlia’s problem is simple enough; she mourns her husband too deeply, and irrationally blames herself for his death. By playing Marcus’s game, she gets the relief she needs.

The interactions between Marcus and his mother add a good bit of charm to the story. It’s priceless when she calls for him to bring her bag—even though he was supposed to be in bed asleep, she knows he’s really listening at the door.

Con: Given the themes of death and regret, it ought to be more moving than it is. I can’t quite figure out why it’s not.

The story appears to contradict itself about where the pain goes. Earlier, it suggests that the operator of the music box takes the pain from someone else, but later it suggests that the pain stays inside the box.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 102)
K.A. Teryna Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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10 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Such a sweet and quirky story for being about pain and grief.
    Really excellent characterization. Also seems to be well translated. The translator said it was the most challenging story he'd done, and a fellow translator had declared it untranslatable!

    The music box is temporary storage. The operator puts someone else's pain in in order to take their own pain back out in equal measure. Marcus helps the kitten; he feels his scraped knee. He takes Dahlia's grief; he feels his own grief.

  2. This has been reprinted in the Sept issue of Strange Horizons' sister magazine Samovar. They also have it in the original Russian. They are podcasts in both English and Russian as well.

    1. In this case, I just used the Apex link. They make all their stories available at once to subscribers (we subscribe to everything we review regularly, where possible), but they delay some of them for everyone else. Often I'll get the review out before the story is available for free.

      I've suggested that they at least make the links available, even if they just go to a page that says, "You could read this right now if you'll subscribe! Otherwise, you have to wait X days." I've suggested this to all the other online magazines that give subscribers early copies; it would make our lives easier and maybe help them attract more subscribers, but, so far, is the only one to actually do it.

    2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is the only one to actually do it.

    3. Yeah, there's not much point in adding the link to the English text. But I thought someone might like to see the Russian text or listen to one of the podcasts.

    4. Definitely worth sharing. Bilingual texts are particularly useful for any intermediate Russian speaker wanting to learn to read novels.

    5. Thanks, I've updated the 2017 Best SF/F and 2017-11 Ratings posts where Untilted appears. Note the Highlight... drop-down in the tables has an option for Podcasts.

    6. Yup, I saw that highlight option and it's been handy!

  3. Just noticed that you don't mention the translator, Alex Shvartsman. I know you usually do so I thought I'd point it out.