Speculative Fiction Reviews
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You've probably noticed there are no new reviews here. I simply haven't time for reviewing and writing recently, and reviewing has had to go. For now, this journal is closed. Apologies.

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Gauging Moonlight, by E. Catherine Tobler - Sci Fiction, 20 July 2005

Gauging Moonlight, by E. Catherine Tobler

E. Catherine Tobler's Gauging Moonlight is one of the shorter pieces from Sci Fiction, yet it carries more power and emotion than many longer stories. The narrator is an alien time-traveller, whose role is strictly limited to observation. Although possessing the immense power to change history, to wipe people from history's stream, he is forbidden to do so.

Yet when he encounters an English woman, Alice Oxbridge, he is drawn to the glimmer of her light in the darkness, and he violates these tenets to remove from her history the man who would break her heart and ruin her life. Over and over, the time traveller visits the same parts of Alice's life, her birth, her death, and so her life becomes entwined with his. And the time traveller who looks down at the stupidity of the time-locked life-forms discovers himself to be as fallable and as human as they are. By the process of observation, he is drawn to interfere with the woman he observes, and he cannot avoid becoming part of Alice's life.

Gauging Moonlight is a love story, one that is tinged by melancholy, because the time-traveller and Alice can never truly be together. He, sweeping back and forth across time, able to return again and again to the same events, she, limited to a short, linear life. In this there are echoes of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

Tobler's writing is subtle, clever and as well-formed as the bloom that Alice is in the time traveller's eyes. The story is full of beautiful images, such as "the golden dust of African plains" or the lilac branch the time traveller carries from the garden where Alice is being born to her deathbed. Gauging Moonlight is a wonderful addition to the time-travel sub-genre. E. Catherine Tobler shows enviable skill in balancing this finely-crafted, gentle piece. It is a charming, fragile story, and an example of form perfectly fitting function; the delicate construction reflects the delicacy of the love story at the core. If it is not on at least one of the award shortlists at the end of this year, it will be a crime.

--Patrick Samphire, 29 July 2005

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