Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Asphalt, River, Mother, Child, by Isabel Yap

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[Strange Horizons]
★★★★☆ A Host of Great Characters

(Afterlife) Mebuyen doesn’t get many lost souls anymore—modern Filipinos have moved on—so when a bunch of young people start showing up whom she can’t send along, it’s time to visit the Earth and learn what’s going on. (7,016 words; Time: 23m)

"," by (edited by Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde), appeared in issue 10/08/18, published on .

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

Review: 2018.556 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This story is filled with charming characters.

Mebuyen, who just wants her river to start working again. She’s almost like a bored celestial bureaucrat who’s annoyed she has to deal with this problem, even though she gradually gets attached to all three young people.

Adriana who’s delightfully perky “Do you have TV?”

Babygirl, who’s flamboyant on the outside, but sweet and insecure on the inside ” I prayed to the Lord that I trusted He would not put me in hell even if I am transgender.”

Romuel, who’s nice even when he loses his temper “Romuel walks ten paces, turns around, walks back, scratching the side of his face. He apologizes to Adriana. Offers to draw her SpongeBob.”

And, of course, JM, the cop who killed them, because this is really a story about saving his soul.

Mebuyen doesn’t fix the problem of death squads in the Philippines. (They’re real, by the way.) That’s a problem for living humans to solve, as Lumbat points out when he says “Would that I could intercede. But alas—it is no longer my time.”

The core problem with her river seems to be that JM, who shot all of them, actually has a conscience, but is refusing to face the fact that he’s doing wrong. By making him see that the people he killed really were people, she makes him see the truth, and with that she’s able to cleanse their spirits and send them along.

I very much appreciated the author's glossary of Filipino words and phrases at the bottom of the story. I could figure a lot out from context, but it was nice to get solid translations.

Con: The story’s not entirely clear about why she can’t wash these souls clean just because their killer is a good man at heart. If that were the case, you’d think she’d have this problem a lot more often.

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