Aurealis #69, April 2014

Reviewed by Wayne Harris

Aurealis is an Australian, online magazine published monthly from February through to November via Smashwords. It usually contains two stories, an article that might be humorous and several book reviews. It is edited by Dirk Strasser.

“The Electric Itch” by Richard Viskovic is an interesting idea but not told in a compelling way.

Stian is a programmer in a large but nameless corporation. He has a neural implant that enables him to communicate directly with the hardware. He also has a chip in his arm. The doctors have assured him that he should not feel these devices but, despite this, he finds that they itch constantly.

He is a brilliant programmer but he has a thorny personality possibly close to some sort of autism. He is exceptionally good at programming but likes to pick and choose his assignments. After yet another disagreement with a fellow worker, and as a test of his ability to cooperate, his boss assigns him to what is perceived as one of the most boring tasks in the company. He must fix the numerous problems with a major piece of code named Yggdrasil which has been patched so many times with inappropriate code that it is dying in a metaphorical sense. In parallel to its mythic namesake Yggdrasil is represented in the virtual world as a tree.

Stian solves the problems but the solution has unexpected consequences on his own life.

This story is well written and the use of subtext is good. Stian’s flaws come across well, especially the parallels between Yggdrasil and his personality but, ultimately, it is just a story of a person struggling to cope with intrusions on his boundaries. There is not a lot to engage the reader until towards the end when Stian does seem to be threatened but the story builds too slowly and the impact is lost.

“It Came From a Party Supplies Store” by Mick Spadaro is humorous and light, an enjoyable read on a lazy day and a wonderful reference to the science fiction movies of the 50s and 60s.

The narrator of this story, Al Price, is hiding on a deserted back road in mid-western USA wearing an alien costume in order to scare his grandkids (as you do) but, instead of meeting his family on the road he stumbles across a car of armed idiots. The occupants of the car scream in terror and shoot at him so, naturally, he runs away. As his adventures continue the suit is damaged so that he is no longer able to take it off or speak clearly through it. He then comes across another guy wearing an alien suit. Except that this guy has some unusual devices and his alien suit is exceptionally realistic.

Al is chased back and forth by some dumb rednecks and eventually captured, all whilst still trapped in the suit as the situation becomes gradually more absurd.

The story is well written and humorous but I would not say laugh out loud funny. The writer cleverly leads the reader into the bizarre tale with just the right balance to make the unbelievable credible and funny. I think this story is worth the price of the magazine on its own.

Wayne J. Harris would like to be a successfully published author (but wouldn’t we all?). He hopes to resurrect his twitter account soon and start posting blogs, but he’s too busy writing reviews like this one.