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REVIEW: Push of the Sky by Camille Alexa


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of short fiction and poetry showcasing the visual imagination of the author.

PROS: Stunning sf/f poetry.
CONS: More-or-less mediocre short stories.

BOTTOM LINE: The remarkable poetry doesn’t quite make up for the lack of memorable stories.

Push of the Sky shows off Camille Alexa’s considerable strength in drawing compelling images. That’s not quite enough to carry most of the short stories here, but the poetry included takes that strength and uses it to best possible effect.

I’m afraid that I’ve never been much for modern poetry; I’ve generally been a Rudyard Kipling/Robert Service poetry fan–poems that both rhyme and tell a story. I’d skip over the poetry bits in Asimov’s or The Atlantic Monthly and not feel terribly deprived. However, Samuel Delany and Garrison Keilor have combined to give me at least a hint of what it is that poetry is supposed to do, and Push of the Sky produces some exemplary samples to enjoy. Consider this excerpt from a poem that rather bucks the LOLcat trend:

They rumble out their purrs to me,

they rub against my legs,

’til even my smallest worry’s gone.

It’s only afterwards that I find John, face down–

well, no face, of course: just bone.

Or this description of a ghost:

her moth-wing eyes,

her off-hue hair,

her spindly legs and

strange, aged-auntie dress;

soft and faintly clingy,

like spider’s eggs.

Looking back over my notes on the stories themselves, over and over I see “strong imagery,” “unusual image” but then the dreaded word, “cliche.” This reads like the collection of an author who hasn’t found her own voice yet. She’s taking her vision and imagination, but laying them on top of very traditional and conservative short story structures: magical assassins (death by butterfly!), space westerns (including a robot brothel), and outcast women becoming figures of power. (“Open your mind, little Moor-mouse-who-isn’t. You don’t have those mismatched eyes for nothing, those eyes of green forests and brown arable soil. They’ll see. You’ll see. This is not all there is. Not for you.”) There’s a post-apocalypse story and one about a mythic figure. They’re all relatively short and quite readable. However, except in bringing that lovely poetic sense of imagery to them, Alexa hasn’t necessarily put her own stamp on these stories. She shows a lot of potential here, and I suspect that she will be a talent to watch. But you may want to skip this collection and wait for the next one–unless you’re looking for sf/f poetry! In which case you’ll possibly not find any better this year.

About Karen Burnham (82 Articles)
Karen is vocationally an engineer and avocationally a sf/f reviewer and critic. She has worked on the Orion and Dream Chaser spacecraft and written for SFSignal, Strange Horizons, and Locus Magazine.
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