Review: Aurealis #129, April 2020

Review: Aurealis #129, April 2020

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, April 9, 2020

“Pork Belly” by Jack Heath
“Father’s House” by Grace Chan
“Prime Mover” by Robert DeLeskie

“Pork Belly” by Jack Heath is a trippy ride. In a near future world, female pigs (sows) are being used as surrogates to avoid the death of human women. The story primarily follows Claudia, the would-be mother, as their sow goes in for the birth process.

Overall, it’s an interesting way to treat birth and, I think, pretty accurate. The dialog and inner monologue reads similarly to conversations I’ve had with expectant parents (sans pigs, obviously), but the real kicker comes with the final line of the story. In that moment, the full reality of this situation becomes clear and it doesn’t reflect well on humanity.

Grace Chan‘s “Father’s House” is an emotional wallop. Henry returns home to pack up his father, Tsz-Kan’s, things. It’s an emotional time, with Henry recounting old stories of his childhood with his father who helps him dig through their history; even trying to dig into Tsz-Kan’s life and learn something about his parent.

I can’t say too much more about the story without spoiling it, so I’ll stop there, but the depth of feeling and fondness with which each story is told builds upon itself until, like Henry at the end, you can’t help but cry. Beautiful story.

“Prime Mover” by Robert DeLeskie is interesting. It follows a trucker, Arlene, who is going through the motions of living after her husband dies of cancer. As a final Hail Mary before offing herself, to keep the tone of the story, Arlene takes an overnight job that leads her to an old haunt, a truck stop that served the best pecan pie. When she arrives, everyone she knows is gone, the pecan pie is store bought, and people are going missing. The night just gets weirder from there, resulting in Arlene finding a new purpose in life through her abuse of a sports relic.

The tone throughout is really spot on for a trucker, I think. Having grown up with a diesel mechanic father, I had a lot of exposure to that specific group. Every bit of the story, from the anger at rain to the climactic fight at the end, is told with the same “well, this is happening” tone I recognize from my conversations with truckers and it works really well. A fun, yet emotional romp through the life of a trucker (thrown into an 80s movie plot).

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