Margo Lanagan. The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross. (The Years Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009).

Originally published in Dreaming Again.

A dark, disturbing glimpse of a near future, which starts with an almost Eraserhead-ish grotesquery, in which a man visiting a brothel finds the ‘woman’ who is servicing him, breaks off halfway through to give birth to a .. something. It’s a fucked-up world, with a lot wrong with it. However, the guy gets some good news – the liaison he had with a local girl a while back resulted in a 100% perfect birth – it’s seems his DNA is fine, and he may well have a route out of the daily grind as a sperm donor.

It’s not an easy read, but it’s not gratuitous, although it is bleak, clearly in a similar vein to the ‘sordid wretchedness’ of her ‘Tender Morsels’, which won the World Fantasy Award. It was the ultra-reactionary Daily Mail newspaper which criticised that novel thus, and if anything upsets that newspaper, it’s bound to get my approval.

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