Although of a consistent aesthetic, this volume is strikingly different from its predecessor. Take "Stella Ryman and the Four Digit Puzzle (Mel Anastasiou) and, to a lesser extent, "The Pledge" (Stephen Case). These stories are utterly mundane, yet told through pulp conventions. The first takes place in a retirement home and the hero's big case is trying to learn the code to open the front door. Yet it's complete with hair-breadth escapes and tall drinks of water and arch enemies, etc etc. "The Pledge" stars a literal PI, but his case is as dull as possible---and investigation reveals it's just as dull as it seems---although misunderstanding on the edges of the case does result in violence and police action.
Although I wouldn't suggest the editors adopt a diet of pure mundane adventure, I really loved these stories. I love the application of pulp convention to the unheralded vagaries of everyday life.
In other news, I loved the mix of plainfaced violence with bildungsroman and everything-old-is-new-again lesbianism in the lead story, Eileen Kernaghan's "The Robber Maiden's Story"; and Margaret Kingsbury's "The Longing Is Green When the Branches Are Trees" delving into a single-item apocalypse (rather like Connie Willis's "The Last of the Winnebagos" mixed the fantastic with the sf in pleasurable ways.
Speaking of stories that seem to be engaging with sf classics, "Some Say the World will end in Fire" by R Daniel Lester reminds me of the Ray Bradbury stories where the characters of books (or dead authors, depending on the story) are stranded on, say, Mars, alive, until the last of their books have been destroyed. In this case, the living (but unfinished) characters wish to die, and at the hand of their creator. A very different sort of arrangement than the one Bradbury presented---and an open question as to "what it all means."
Anyway, another good issue. This has been a good investment. Plus, check out this awesome back cover!
So be excited for that.