Review: “Extraction Request” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #112)


(Read it here!)

About the Author:

According to his website, Rich Larson has received the 2014 Dell Award and 2012 Rannu Prize for Writers of Speculative Fiction, and has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Prize. He has also been nominated for the Pushcart and Journey Prizes. He has been published in Asimov’s and F&SF magazines, among others. And…he’s only 23. Wow. He must be good, right?



This is the best story in the collection so far. The writing style and the setting are visceral and gritty, as are the characters. Their relationships are very realistic, and suit the story’s theme. It has an energy and pace to it that makes it sort of angsty, but not in a bad way. The (spoiler?) aliens are disgusting and downright terrifying. (/spoiler)

My favourite part about it though is Rich’s innate ability to use the perfect similies, metaphors and descriptions. “Sweat pools in the hollow of his collarbone.” How can you compete with that? It vividly conjures images of the close, sweaty, anxiousness of the setting. The present-tense narration makes the story’s events vivid and immediate. It is a very visual story.


Again, it is fairly difficult to point out negatives, but I have found some. There are some spelling and grammatical errors that sometimes make the story feel a bit amateurish. The overall voice is great, which is why this didn’t bother me so much – that and the fact that his bio says he was born in West Africa means English probably isn’t his first language. The only other thing I can find wrong with this might be that the actual wider setting isn’t expanded on, but the job of the short story is to show a tiny glimpse into something a lot wider – an event in someone’s life, etc. and so the fact that this is absent is totally fine – more my own curiosity than any failure on the writer’s part.

This is a shorter review than normal, solely because it is just the quintessential  short story. It uses a lot of great short story techniques and the writer has a natural flair and eye for details. I would definitely recommend it for those who are learning how to write short stories.

On Friday we review “Everybody Loves Charles” by Bao Shu (Clarkesworld #112), follow me via email so you don’t miss it!

To see the rest of my reviews of Clarkesworld #112, click here!

(Image from

9 thoughts on “Review: “Extraction Request” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #112)

  1. “that and the fact that his bio says he was born in West Africa means English probably isn’t his first language.” — you are so wrong… I hope you realize that the British colonized Nigeria (the OFFICIAL language!), Ghana (the OFFICIAL language), and other large swathes of West Africa . And as for “spelling errors” — that is more an issue of the editors than authors….


    1. Thanks for commenting! While yes, English is taught in West Africa, it is not spoken exclusively. Most children will grow up hearing two or more languages. Official language does not necessarily mean de facto language.
      Editing in short story magazines is not as common as you’d think, especially in genre fiction. Most of those magazines struggle to make money anyway, do you think they can afford editors? 😀
      I’m not insulting you, I’m just giving you the reasons behind why I wrote what I did.


      1. Indeed! Like your blog, btw. There was some great science fiction written 1940-70 that people seem to overlook nowadays. I’ll be trawling through your reviews when I get some free time.


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