Short Stories 366:123 — “Anisoptera with a Side Order of Soft Blast,” by Fiona Patton

coverOur next foray into the twisting tunnels and shopping levels of Plexis brings us to a story that I can only describe as a kind of caper-meets-hacktivist-meets-SF-answer-to-the-Baker-Street-Irregulars and I don’t even know if I can explain how super cool and awesome this is. A trio of young men who are cared for more-or-less by an older woman who runs a kind of new-age/craft/art shop and cafe in Plexis come together with a singular mission: to take down a new funeral service company that’s literally planning on using a beautiful kind of insect to make vacuum-style fireworks during funeral rites (to the lethal detriment of said insects). So, time for a plan, right?

The thing about The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis that I’m enjoying the absolute most is how most of the tales absolutely stand alone, but when you’ve read Czerneda’s series, the little glimpses of alien races or walk-on characters given full stories adds a little zip and zest to the whole. “Anisoptera with a Side Order of Soft Blast,” dips, zigs, and zags with alien races, the noise and mix of Plexis itself, and the sheer range of alien cultures and how rules had to be made to allow for culture (which allows people to try to subvert them for their own gain, of course), and the end result is using exploding insects as fireworks being legal on a few technicalities, and three boys deciding to fix this oversight themselves.

When I say Fiona Patton delivered a caper, I mean the “Do we have a plan?” contingency effect, whereby the characters do have a plan, kinda-sorta, but it’s convoluted and things will likely go wrong, and at the same time, you’re rooting for these boys from the get-go. I loved their bickering (the characterization of teen boys was bloody brilliant, even in a space mall and set in the far future, these were such teenage boys I cannot even tell you). And the little sci-fi touches were just awesome: music, mood-ring decorations for teeth, hairstyles, clothing, and—of course—space bugs.

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