This month's GigaNotoSaurus features some genuinely strange visuals and a great style, and fits in with the spring, with the idea of rebirth and renewal. It's long but not too long, tightly plotted with enough exposition to give a sense of place and back story but not slave to that, able to weave an interesting and rather mysterious story where the veil is never fully lifted. And really, it's a good read that I'm going to review now!
"The Garden of Sons and Husbands" by Alex Jeffers (11,010 words)
I think I got to the point where there is this giant collective of baby-faced birds and thought to myself "okay this is a bit strange." And that could really be said of this entire story. A bit strange. But also rather good. The story is about names, really, about the names of young men and the names of gods. About how things change and get lost. About prices to be paid. And I think the story thrives because of its setting, this odd mix of elements, religion and also a cataclysm that happened in the past where the moon shattered and some of it fell to earth. There is a great sense of magic here, and wonder, but with a dark edge, these powers that have existed for so long and who have forgotten their name or forsaken their name or never had a name. It's about a priest trying to lay some part of himself and his religion to rest. About a mother trying to retrieve her son. And it's strange and it's kind of fun and it's a richly imagined world that has history and has tragedy and darkness all mixed together. It's also where I struggled at times with the story, because it feels part of something larger and while I think there's definitely enough here to stand on its own, to have meaning, there was a sense that what is witnessed is part of some larger mystery that the reader can't really begin to fully appreciate.
Of course I like that about the story, too. I like that not everything is cut and dry, that there are things that go unanswered. It gives the ending less of a clean feeling, which is important because it's a messy situation. So much about the situation has been lost to the past, lost with the dead. [SPOILERS] and it's the case that the people at the end have no idea what just happened. They have been used and saved all at once, but the true scale of what just happened is lost to them. They were either dreaming or in pain and in any event no one explained it fully. They saw something of a scale that was boggling but in part because they didn't know what it was they can dust themselves off and make their own future. It was the past, there, all the messy weight of it still exacting its toll, no long even meaningful because the reasons were lost to time. And they are finally wiped away. The sins of the past are paid and the present can stretch on. And if there is no real explanation there doesn't need to be, because the point is that they get to make their own future, find their own names. It's a fun ending that leaves me wanting to know what happens to the characters next. What kind of magic remains and what sort of newness prevails. In any event it's a vivid, complex story with a great atmosphere and stunning action. Go check it out!