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The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria

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A quirky collection of short sci-fi stories for fans of Kij Johnson and Kelly Link
Assimilation is founded on surrender and being broken; this collection of short stories features people who have assimilated, but are actively trying to reclaim their lives. There is a concert pianist who defies death by uploading his soul into his piano. There is the person who draws his mother’s ghost out of the bullet hole in the wall near where she was executed. Another character has a horn growing out of the center of his forehead—punishment for an affair. But he is too weak to end it, too much in love to be moral. Another story recounts a panda breeder looking for tips. And then there’s a border patrol agent trying to figure out how to process undocumented visitors from another galaxy. Poignant by way of funny, and philosophical by way of grotesque, Hernandez’s stories are prayers for self-sovereignty.

280 pages, Paperback

First published February 15, 2016

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About the author

Carlos Hernandez

45 books242 followers
SFF writer, English prof. and game designer/enthusiast.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 122 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 256 books408k followers
April 30, 2016
How to even describe this book?

Imagine twelve of the best Twilight Zone episodes collected as short stories, updated for 2016 and told largely from different Cuban American perspectives, with equal parts humor, magical realism, cutting-edge science fiction and culture clash.

Hernandez's imagination is so fertile it leaves me awestruck. I'm hesitant to give examples because it would spoil some of the fun, but for starters you can expect unicorns, giant robotic pandas, evil spirits, multiple dimensions, a reality TV murder and a Chevy truck that turns into Margaret Thatcher. I was so blown away that I am tempted to ask that cliche question all writers hate: "Where do you get your ideas?"

But incredible ideas don't go very far if they aren't conveyed with good storytelling and a solid command of style. Here again, Hernandez has you covered. He is a first-rate writer with the same range as the piano he describes in one of his stories -- built to hold the spirit of a master composer, constructed with extra keys just to accommodate the pianist's skill.

This collection is published by Rosarium Press, a small publishing house committed to bringing new quality voices into the literary world, and judging from this book, boy, are they doing a good job. I can't wait to see what Hernandez comes up with next. If someone in Hollywood was smart (And I don't give Hollywood much credit for smarts) they would option this collection and turn it into a series of episodes like the series Black Mirror. It would destroy. Until then, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. It will blow your mind in the best possible way.

Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,045 followers
January 8, 2016
**** The Aphotic Ghost
A strong opener to the anthology. An updated selkie story for the modern age, with marine biology, immortal jellyfish, and an ascent of Mount Everest.

*** Homeostasis
Delicate treatment of a classic sci-fi theme: 'cybernetic' enhancements and the line between technology and whatever it is that makes us human. Imagine a more mundane Robocop.

** Entanglements
This one felt a little bit too sappy/Lifetime drama for me. A physicist finds out that his girlfriend is married to another man - when he returns from a military tour of duty as a double amputee. Driven by guilt, he makes it his mission to try to help the girlfriend's husband. The quantum physics/experimental tech part of the story is interesting, but the emotional agonizing and interpersonal drama didn't win me over. The commentary on racism felt a bit shoehorned in, rather than being an element that flowed organically from the characters and the plot.

*** The International Studbook of the Giant Panda
You know how pandas aren't particularly eager to have sex? Conservationists have tried all kinds of ways to get them in the mood. Here, there's a new method: remote controlled sexy robot pandas. Unfortunately, some Christian extremists have an objection. Can a junior journalist help the panda husbandry organization with their PR image? Funny, with a dash of disturbing.

**** The Macrobe Conservation Project
Nicely creepy take on the 'pod people' trope. A kid is reluctantly spending the summer aboard a space station with his scientist dad. Mom and his brother aren't on the station, but the kid has robot versions of mom and bro to keep him company - although they're not quite the same as the real thing. Dad is a little bit secretive about what the research project is that he's working on, but it has something to do with the alien 'macrobes' that were discovered on the colony planet of New Hope.

*** Los Simpaticos
It's hard to pull off a murder mystery in a short story, but this one succeeds better than most. It still over-relies on a detailed confession that sets out all the details after-the-fact; always a failing in the genre. (And this is purely a murder mystery, with no sci-fi elements.)
The most popular new TV show among Spanish-speaking audiences is a reality 'sting' production. The show's star poses as a hitman and trolls for customers. After the 'job' is set up (and the arrangement filmed), the police swoop in to collar the would-be murderers.
A teen gangster who wants a schoolmate done away with seems like just another episode - until the star of the show turns up dead.

*** More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give
After a long search, a family member seems to have located the place where a family member was executed in Cuba. The historian who tracked down the location also claims to be a kind of spiritual medium who can facilitate communion with the dead. Although skeptical, a curious couple travel to meet the man and see what he's actually offering.
Intriguing, well-drawn characters and a fascinating premise give this piece a very strong start. However - then it just randomly ends at an inconclusive moment. Very frustrating.

** Bone of my Bone
Well, that was odd. Depressed, drunk guy who's separated from his wife starts growing a horn out of his head, and it's a metaphor for.... something Biblical? Having to do with relationships? I'm not quite sure. Didn't really work for me.

*** The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory
Quantum physics weakens the barriers between parallel universes, and one of the side effects if the crossing over of unicorns into our reality. Of course, the amazing and magical animals are immediately a target for poachers. I liked all that, but the main focus of the story shifts to a musing on whether it's ethically acceptable to tell 'white lies' to children, and I didn't think that aspect of the piece was as strong.

*** American Moat
A couple of good ol' boys are on a self-appointed patrol along the US-Mexico border, with the goal of keeping out illegal aliens. They do indeed encounter aliens - but they're not Mexicans. A humorous take on the old theme: If aliens game here searching for intelligent life; would they judge that they'd found it? Would we be considered 'worthy?'

*** Fantaisie Impromptu #4 in C# min, Op. 66
The reporter from the Panda Robot story makes a reappearance here, along with a second visit from the eneural technology we were introduced to in 'Homeostasis.'
An acclaimed piano player's thought patterns have been preserved technologically within his piano, after his untimely death. His religious wife believes that his soul also lives on inside the instrument. She has invited a reporter to experience the piano, in defence of her claim - and also to be a witness.

**** The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria
Previously read in 'Interfictions 2' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).
A little boy turns to voodoo rituals, looked up in a book from the library, after his mother dies. As in many stories, dealing with the dead is more complex than one might hope. A very authentic, almost autobiographical feel to this.

Many thanks to Rosarium and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,585 followers
February 9, 2019
A very well written, decidedly weird collection of shorts, sf/f/ghost story/fables. Author has a tendency to set up a situation and then end the story at the climax, not telling us what then happened, which is in keeping with the weird haunting mood, but a tad frustrating for the plot-driven reader. Strange, imaginative, and fascinating.
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books105 followers
May 20, 2016
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Well, this was a pretty original collection of stories, mixing science fiction and fantasy elements against a backdrop of Cuban culture (sometimes with clashes of various, if only generational ones) and magical realism. In this book, you'll get research centres on space stations, aliens visiting Earth and confronted to ubuesque situations, reality TV shows about hitmen, a piano haunted by the soul of his previous owner, artificial brain implants meant to help people recover from owful brain injuries, giant pandas prodded into mating through robotics, unicorns... Basically, quite a few different ideas here, but all looking, in the end, as perfectly logical and well-integrated. Suspension of disbelief? Totally. (Yes, even when Margaret Thatcher waltzes in.)

The writing style in general was pretty good, bordering on poetic at times, making it easy to picture items (the piano), situations and places. Owing to their cultural background, some characters sometimes spoke in Spanish, or what is close to it; I can't say whether this is annoying or not, because my own experience with that language, albeit very rusty, was still solid enough to allow me to understand.

My favourite ones:

“Homeostasis”: a take on cybernetics/neural implants and what it may mean in terms of envisioning “the soul”. When half your brain has been taken over by an eneural to help reconstruct your persona and allow you to function again as a full human being, can you be sure the person inside is still the person, and not an artificial intelligence?

“The International Studbook of the Giant Panda”: bizarre, with a dash of humour, a little disturbing, too... but surprisingly enough, past the first “WTF” moment, I realised I was enjoying this story a lot.

“The Macrobe Conservation Project”: disturbing too, in different ways. On a space station, a scientist tries to help preserve a fragile ecosystem based on parasites/symbiants living on corpses. Meanwhile, his son's only contact with his on-planet family is through robotic versions of his mother and brother.

“American Moat”: when aliens meet the local border patrol... hilarity ensues. And yet, there is something deeply worrying in this story, because it makes you wonder: is humanity really worth it, or are we just stupid bags of meat who'd better be left to rot?

“The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria”: the eponymous title and last story of the book. After his mother's death, a little boy desperately wants his father to be happy again instead of lonely, and turns to (dark) magic to help him. Bonus for the magical dead cat. Again, there are funny elements in there... but also reallyl touching ones. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And with pigeons.

The other stories were good as well, and none struck me as abysmal—if I had to rate them, they were all 3 stars minimum for me.

As for the cultural backdrop, apart from a couple of heavy-handed pokes at racism, these stories had a natural flow that made the characters appear as well-integrated within their surroundings (whether contemporary Earth or space), even when those weren't Cuba. I'm not sure how to express what I felt here, but I think it'd be something like: you don't need to understand this different culture to enjoy these stories, and it doesn't matter if some themes, character quirks, idioms and/or mannerisms aren't easy to understand because they're not yours—they're part of each story in a natural, logical flow, and while this isn't “my” culture, it both gave me nice insights into it, while also making me feel like there was no cultural divide. (Hopefully this makes sense.)

4 stars out of 5. I definitely recommend this book.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,673 reviews490 followers
October 21, 2015
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

I wanted to like this more than I did, I truly did.

This is a collection of fantasy/science-fiction short stories. Several of them have Hispanics as either main or supporting characters. This is a good thing; we need diversity. Hernandez also has a very fertile imagination. There is a high level of creativity in the stories. He writes about panda reproduction for crying out loud. The central characters are nicely varied in terms of gender, and in many cases he writes believable women (though a few times some of the thoughts come out of left field).

Yet the stories left me cold.

It’s like how I feel about Hemingway. I can admire the technical brilliance but for me at least, something vital, some spark is missing. “The International Studbook of the Giant Panda” and “American Moat” was the two stories that seemed the strongest.
Profile Image for Migdalia Jimenez.
263 reviews39 followers
August 19, 2019
Hernandez blends sci-fi, fantasy and latinx culture here perfectly. His fantastic story-telling ability, wit and originality make every story a delight to read.
I mean where else are you going to read a story abot a couple of right-wing nuts patrolling the Arizona border looking for 'illegal aliens' and stumbling across actual interstellar aliens?

I can say so much more about how much I loved this book, instead I'll just say, go out and read this as soon as you can, it won't disappoint.
Profile Image for Charles Dee Mitchell.
853 reviews59 followers
June 26, 2016
This first collection of twelve stories brings the author’s breezy tone and sharp wit to a range of traditional sf tropes. The setting may be on or off Earth and the time the present day, the near or the far future. Most of the protagonists are scientists from a variety of fields. Hernandez’ one repeating character is Gabrielle Reál, a reporter from the San Francisco Squint. She writes a debunking column, but consistently run up against situations that test her professional skepticism. The science in the stories ranges from the type of tech we might all be experiencing in the next couple of decades to the big science of parallel universes. One theoretical physicist comments that he hopes that he is wrong in ways that may someday lead to science.

Hernandez spins stories concerned with what it will mean to be human in these changing circumstances. And he has a consistent interest in life after death. Characters live on in surprising ways. We might learn a lot from a newly discovered species of deep-sea jellyfish whose reproductive process makes it basically eternal. In other stories, magic meets advanced physics with surprising results. An effort to mitigate the loss of a loved one with the scientific means at hand can seem cruel, even monstrous.

Carlos Hernandez is an engaging, empathetic storyteller. One narrator prescribes the Cuban way handling what life throws at you: mix some shit jokes and pranks into the heartbreak, or you won’t make it through another day. This same narrator plays out the most tender scene in any of the stories. He and his wife have had a difficult and intellectually challenging visit to his family back on the island. Much has occurred to get him to this final moment. “…I put my faith in everything I did not understand about our world and stabbed my wife in the ass.”
Profile Image for Angela.
419 reviews919 followers
May 22, 2020
4.5/5 The first 3 stories were weak but the other 200 pages I just enjoyed so much. My heart just loved the different angles and perspectives we got and I just really saw myself and my family in these stories. Its also not generally very depressing which I enjoyed surprisingly. Guess I should try and find more happy sci-fi once in a while.

Recommendation: If you want a fun sci-fi short story collection with amazing Latinx representation give this a shot. It really won me over by the end.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,136 reviews
June 23, 2016
Some of the stories were just fine, but the ones I liked I LOVED. And I am eternally grateful to have had each day of my Comps Week book-ended by escaping into Hernandez's hilarious and puzzling worlds of love. Totally not surprised he's a comrade of DJ Older.
Profile Image for Amanda.
31 reviews22 followers
December 28, 2016
I am completely obsessed with this book and the writing. OBSESSED. I want more more more
Profile Image for Floms.
249 reviews12 followers
September 6, 2021
A very diverse collection of stories some of which were nice, some of which I didn't really get and some of which just had a weird ending. Had a few of the Ted chiang vibes I was hoping for though.

The aphotic ghost (3/5)
One of those that I didn't really 100% get. But I still really liked the setup.
Homeostatsis (3/5)
A lot of people really seemed to like this one but I think the conclusion was a bit rushed. Highly enjoyed the conversation between father and son towards the end.
Entanglement (4/5)
A bit melodramatic, especially at the end, but it kind of fit the Story.
The international stud book of the giant panda (4/5)
A really weird story. Maybe the weirdest one in here and it made me feel excited, a wee bit disgusted but overall really cool idea.
The macrobe conservation project (4.5/5)
Really liked the twist, didn't see that coming. Also cool idea.
Los simpaticos (2/5)
Didn't care much for that one and the mystery was not really executed well.
More than pigs and rosaries can give (4/5)
Eycept for the weird description of Jesús doing the ritual I highly liked this one.
Bone of my bone (2/5)
Okay what was that. The ending just confused me and the setup also was weird.
The magical properties of unicorn ivory (3/5)
Cool setup, questionable execution. Liked the worldbuilding though.
American moat (5/5)
My favorite story in here. Liked the whole "humans are so caught up in their ideologies that they won't realize good opportunities"
Fantaisie impromtu (4/5)
Another strong one. Cool concept, nice execution.
The assimilated Cubans guide to quantum santeria (3/5)
I liked the first few paragraphs but then the promises made there were kind of not fulfilled. The story itself is not bad, far from it, actually, but I just found the present to be a bit more interesting than the past the story played in.
Profile Image for jocelyn.
429 reviews247 followers
October 9, 2019
Even though each individual story didn't necessarily work for me, this solidified Carlos Hernandez as an author that I actively enjoy. Some of stories in this collection weren't to my taste and even still, I felt the need to know what happened next. Here you'll find science that is fantasical, magical, and horrifying in turn; Latinx (mostly Cuban) folx who you don't always want to root for but can still sympathize with; and words that will haunt you even after you're done reading them.

The Aphotic Ghost - ★★★★
Homeostasis - ★★★
Entanglements - ★★★.5
The International Studbook of the Giant Panda - ★★★
The Macrobe Conservation Project - ★★★★.5
Los Simpáticos - ★★★
More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give - ★★★★
Bone of My Bone - ★★★
The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory - ★★★.5
American Moat - ★★★
Fantasie Impromptu No. 4 In C#min, Op. 66 - ★★★
The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria - ★★★★★
Profile Image for Chrysten Lofton.
370 reviews33 followers
September 5, 2018
5.0⭐ “There’s a little melancholy in the way she tilts her head. Then she says, “He moved.”

If you’re here, and you’re following my reviews, thank you for rolling with me. We’re on episode 30 of Stitcher’s LeVar Burton Reads, and we’re gifted with “Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66” by Carlos Hernandez.

I’ve got so much praise for this story, but a special hat-tip to LeVar and his team for incorporating the song’s actual music into the prose. I think that it changed how I heard the story. Since the character was interpreting the music, I would have only been able to rely on her worldview to hear the song. I’m not a musician, and I would have leaned onto her descriptive words instead of discovering the true identity of the sound. Sometimes I’ll stop a story and look up a mentioned song on youtube, but I do have to step out of the story to do that.

It was a sharper experience this way.

The commentary of this piece is crazy deep, and it’s working hard in the confinement of short story. It makes me want to sit on a rooftop with its author and have long talks over coffee about life, god, death, and cosmos. Where are you Carlos? Let's be friends. I loved the surreal nature of classical music, the idea that our minds play music without the rest of us. Music is a reflection of human consciousness, so it was a smart tie-in.

To sort of piggy-back on LeVar’s thoughts, we do like to play god in humanity. We also like definitions. Really, it’s kind of a human obsession. Definitions can help us to control, and that’s exactly what this story was about. We have a woman who sincerely believes she understands the mechanics of soul, and can therefore spin a fate. Control the definition, control the rules, control the actions.

I read the bible between 2015-2017, and listening to this story, I found myself wondering a little more about the biblical definition of the soul, and how it’s treated in context. I remember from my reading a lot of parameters cast onto the soul, but not about the mechanics of the soul.
If you google, “Biblical definition of the soul”, you’ll get a fairly short Wikipedia article. Check this intro:

The traditional concept of an immaterial and immortal soul distinct from the body was not found in Judaism before the Babylonian exile,[1] but developed as a result of interaction with Persian and Hellenistic philosophies.[2] Accordingly, the Hebrew word נֶ֫פֶשׁ‬, nephesh, although translated as "soul" in some older English Bibles, actually has a meaning closer to "living being". Nephesh was rendered in the Septuagint as ψυχή (psūchê), the Greek word for soul. The New Testament also uses the word ψυχή, but with the Hebrew meaning and not the Greek.[3]

That’s a lot, isn’t it. The article goes on to do some unpacking, but here’s what I figure. If we accept the oldest book of the bible was authored around the 4th century, that means humanity has had a couple thousand years to do some interpreting. It’s unending work, because if we can interpret narratives in our favor, we have more control. I think that’s what this story was all about. Was the soul in the piano? Yes? No? Can a soul be duplicated? Can it be uploaded to a hard drive? Can the churches and courts decide the effects of technology on a soul whose definition is constantly debated?

In the end, I don’t think it was Balusek’s soul-to-piano transference that played god, I don’t think it was Consuela’s piano murder that played god. They were blissfully certain that they understood the physical nature of the soul, and all the ways it is governed. That’s the god-play. That’s self-governing as your own god.

Thanks for reading, and If you wanna chat about the latest LBR episodes, hit me up in the comments and come meet up with us at LeVar Burton Reads: The Community on Facebook.
- 📚☕♥
Profile Image for Darinda.
8,289 reviews149 followers
January 23, 2018
12 fantasy short stories. The stories are primarily told from Cuban American viewpoints and are humorous reads dealing with sci-fi and magical realism.

★★★★ The Aphotic Ghost - A modern selkie story with marine biology, mountaineering, and a father looking for his missing son.

★★★★★ Homeostasis - Cybernetics and souls. After a neural implant, where is the line between being human and artificial intelligence.

★★★ Entanglements - A love triangle with parallel universes.

★★★ The International Studbook of the Giant Panda - Robotics and virtual reality panda suits... to teach pandas about sex.

★★★★ The Macrobe Conservation Project - A father and son live on a space station. The father works constantly on a somewhat secretive project, and the son has robotic versions of his mother and brother to keep him company.

★★★ Los Simpáticos - A murder mystery about a reality TV star's death.

★★★★★ More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give - A son tries to find the location of his mother's death at the hands of Che Guevara's firing squad. He gets a lead, and the opportunity to communicate with his dead mother.

★★ Bone of My Bone - A man starts to grow a horn on his head.

★★★★ The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory - Unicorns are real... because scientists created microscopic black holes and it messed with parallel universes.

★★★★★ American Moat - Aliens, the extraterrestrial kind, meet local border control.

★★★★ Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66 - A pianist's thoughts have been preserved in his piano. After his untimely death, his widow invites a reporter to come experience the piano.

★★★★ The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria - A young boy turns to dark magic after his mother's death.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
422 reviews9 followers
February 27, 2022
This is a relatively brief anthology of short stories by Carlos Hernandez - an even dozen stories weighing in at 280 pages. For me, this was a quick and really enjoyable read. I usually don't love short fiction and to be honest, what led me to pick this was r/Fantasy's Book Bingo challenge. I was looking for a book by a Latinx author and here we go.

I have not read Hernandez's other works. I had heard of Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, but from what I understand it's more Middle Grade aimed, and I don't usually read too much in that area. I might have to make an exception though!

Two of the stories in this anthology have an adult Gabi Real who is a reporter for the San Francisco Squint - the panda story ("The International Studbook of the Giant Panda") and the unicorn story ("The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory"). I think this is the same Gabi from the Sal and Gabi books, but grown up? Also, there is one story, the final story that has the same title as the whole anthology where the protagonist is Salvador Vidon, who I think is the same Sal from Sal and Gabi, again now as an adult.

For young readers/fans of Sal and Gabi or their parents - be aware the stories in this book are adult and not Middle Grade reading material.

I particularly enjoyed the first story - The Aphotic Ghost, the one set in Cuba - More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give, and the final titular story - The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria. Usually I feel that short stories don't have enough page length to give you a full story with a satisfying plot AND characters - the length usually costs you one or the other or both. I thought the author did a great job here and I would be happy to try his other works based on this anthology. Highly recommended reading! I'm glad my Bingo Challenge got me to pick up this book.
Profile Image for Alyisha.
713 reviews30 followers
May 9, 2018
4.5 stars.

Funny, creative, thought-provoking, culturally-diverse, & the absolute best kind of weird! "The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria" is one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year. If not for the poor print quality (bright white pages, awkward spacing, & several typos), I'd have almost thing to complain about. Oh, except for the time Hernandez writes, "I make a wtf face." I bet you can guess my reaction to that sentence...

My favorite stories are "Homeostasis", "Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66", "More than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give" - and, honestly, "The International Studbook of the Giant Panda." (Also, if anyone wants to talk about "Bone of My Bone," hit me up!).

There are plenty of laughs & hilariously awkward moments in this collection -- but it's all mixed-up with genuine contemplation about subjects such as the nature & existence of the soul. I loved it!
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,503 reviews227 followers
January 27, 2020
The name alone was enough to sell me on this collection. And it's pretty much exactly what it says on the cover, a collection of slipstreamish scifi from a American-Cuban perspective. One story is set on a space station, two concern a neural cybernetic implant, but the main thrust is people, their passions, and their souls, in a world much like our but a little more vivid. Hernandez plays with the stereotypes of Cubans and the culture of machismo, while also having his characters be physicists, mathematicians, investigative reporters.
Profile Image for Luca Cresta.
997 reviews25 followers
December 27, 2017
Rutilante raccolta di FS hispanica. Come tutti i testi di Future Fiction, una visione alternativa alla SF anglosassone, ma di livello qualitativo elevato. 4 racconti lunghi che spaziano su diversi temi della SF ma che, grazie alle capacità dell'autore e del traduttore, legano il lettore alla pagina. Una lettura diversa ma di ottimo contenuto Science con un occhio molto attento alle tradizioni latino-americane.
Profile Image for David.
Author 103 books88 followers
March 6, 2019
One of the coolest titles I've seen for a short story collection and, by and large, I felt the stories here delivered on that promise. Most of this is near future science fiction told from a Cuban perspective with more than a dash of magic and religion tossed in for good measure. "The Aphotic Ghost" which opens the anthology and the title story which closes it were my favorites, but I enjoyed all of them with "Entanglements," "the International Studbook of the Giant Panda," and "More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give" being near runners up.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,437 reviews35 followers
August 6, 2019
In the story “Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66” by Carlos Hernandez, artists are said to often give their heart and soul to their work, and in the case, it is literally true. A concert pianist's wife insists her husband's soul is in a piano, after his debilitating illness and death. But if his soul is locked into a piano what of his eternal soul in heaven? In this tale science and faith intersect with a "deus ex machina" ending. Listened to this story on LeVar Burton Reads.
Profile Image for Mary.
591 reviews
April 17, 2020
2.5, but this is more of a me issue if anything. I think I was just not in the right mood for this book, even though it had been in my TBR for some time. I did enjoy “Entanglements” and “American Moat” though.
Profile Image for John.
405 reviews30 followers
March 23, 2016
Superb, Brilliant and Compelling Tales from a Notable New Voice in Contemporary Anglo-American Speculative Fiction

Carlos Hernandez's "The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria" is one of the most notable recently published debut short story collections I have read, worthy of comparison with the latest from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and China Miéville, among others. Much to his credit, Hernandez, who was trained primarily in mainstream literary fiction writing, has mastered brilliantly, the substance and style of contemporary Anglo-American speculative fiction, yielding such gems as his "Fantaisie Impromptu No.4 in C#min, Op. 66" which may be the finest tale I have read regarding classical music, futuristic neurotechnology and the afterlife. He pays ample attention to his own "assimilated Cuban" heritage in memorable stories like "More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give" and "Los Simpáticos" - which can be seen as a darkly humorous satire on reality television - and the title story itself, at the end of this remarkable collection, which delves deeply into the Afro-Cuban faith of Santeria, while giving a most unique perspective from a child's point-of-view of a family breakup with a most surprising twist. Hernandez tugs at the reader's emotions, offering sympathetic, often moving, portrayals of each of the characters in his stories. While "The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria" is a notable collection of contemporary Anglo-American speculative fiction at its best, replete with ample excursions into magical realism with a stop or two in hard science fiction, it should also be seen as an important literary statement for those who are interested primarily in contemporary fiction writing from Latino American authors.
664 reviews
September 9, 2021
This was a bit of a disappointing read for me. Theoretically I should have loved it, a lot of the SciFi concepts in here were quite interesting, and it also had some magical realism elements, which should have made for one of the coolest genre blends ever. Theme-wise it had a number of great things to say as well, but with the exception of two or three stories, I didn’t care too much about any of them in the end. There was something about the tone of most of them that didn’t work for me, and I didn’t find all of the characters rather dull, which tends to really bring down a story for me.

The Aphotic Ghost: 4 stars. It actually started out great, I found this to be super interesting and unique and was definitely looking forward to the rest of the collection after having read this. Which then unfortunately, with the exception of one other story, didn’t live up to this one. However, I already didn’t love the characters, and especially not their relationships, in this story either, they just didn’t take away as much from this one as they did from some of the others, and I found that there were enough other aspects that I liked to make the story worthwhile for me.

Homeostasis: 2 stars. This one I really didn’t care for. The SciFi aspect in here is something that definitely could have made for an interesting story, but what ended up being done with it felt like I had read it before, and I was just kind of over that type of story. It also felt a little too direct in its message, and I don’t like when stories spell out what they want to say too much, I need more subtlety, something that really makes the reader think for themselves, in order to find it affective. Also, I really don’t care about straight marriages and people’s family lives, whenever that’s the main focus of a story, I will just end up being extremely bored.

Entanglements: 2 stars. This doesn’t only center another heterosexual marriage, but it’s also about cheating, and I guess I only have so much patience for reading about relationships that I can’t connect to on any level, and even less for the drama in these relationships and them going wrong. The SciFi element of this was super interesting, but even that couldn’t save the story for me.

The International Studbook of the Giant Panda: 2.5 stars. This was super weird, and somehow it was equally parts weird in an interesting way and weird in an uncomfortable to read kind of way. Which doesn’t even have to be a bad thing, sometimes stories are supposed to be uncomfortable to read and more effective because of it, but I don’t think this was one of these, and I really didn’t like the feeling it left me with after finishing it. I couldn’t stand this main character either, and I was quite disappointed in the ending, I don’t know what exactly I had been expecting from it, but it felt to me like something was missing from the story.

The Macrobe Conservation Project: 3 stars. I liked this a little more than the last three stories, but it still wasn’t anything super special or memorable to me. It was cool that it was set on another planet, and I enjoyed following the perspective of this child more than I had liked any of the previous main characters, but still wasn’t wowed by anything about this story in the end.

Los Simpáticos: 3.5 stars. While I still didn’t feel as connected to this story as I would have wished, I thought this one was quite intelligent, and I definitely got more out of it than I got from the previous stories. I liked how it was a kind of a mystery storyline, but also very different from how those are typically written, and weirdly enough I also found the reality TV aspect quite interesting to read, despite the fact that I never even watch reality TV.

More Than Pigs and Rosaries: 2 stars. This managed to at once be weird in a bad way, but also included some ideas I felt like I had read too many times before, and didn’t care about anymore. Again, I was uncomfortable with these characters and just didn’t get anything out of this story in the end.

Bone of My Bone: 1.5 stars. Again, cheating is just not a topic I am at all interested in reading about, and here this was so much the focus of the story, that it didn’t have anything else that could have made it at least a little interesting to me. Fortunately it was the shortest story in the collection, because it was also my least favorite.

The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory: 2.5 stars. This had the same main character as the Panda story, which I wasn’t happy about, because while I didn’t care for any of the characters in this collection, she had still already been one of my least favorites to start with. However, it’s obviously about unicorns, and the way the SciFi aspect came into this was really cool as well, and I did like what it was saying, I just didn’t love the characters or most of the events in the story.

American Moat: 4 stars. This was my favorite story of the collection. Those characters were written to be horrible people, and it was important for the story that they were this way, so that worked way better for me than all the dull characters in the other stories. I love stories about aliens, and I also loved the commentary in here, the way it used those extraterrestrials to discuss how the USA treats immigrants.

Fantaisie-Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66: 1.5 stars. I like reading about music, so I thought this one might end up being interesting to me, but it wasn’t. I literally have no feelings on this one, the character were extremely boring again, and I didn’t care much about it’s themes, or even the SciFi element, either. I already forgot most of it, other than the feeling of completely having wasted my time after finishing it.

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria: 3 stars. I again preferred following this child to most of the adult protagonists in the other stories, and I also thought the Santeria part of the story was great. But other than that it was nothing special and another slightly boring story, especially since it also centers the boy wanting his dad to fall in love again, and I think by now we’ve established how I don’t care about heterosexual adults and their romances.
Profile Image for Vesselin Bakov.
33 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2016
First of all, good luck to anyone, trying to categorize these stories into a single category (besides Short stories), lol.

"American Moat" and "More than pigs and rosaries can give" are easily my favorites in this collection, while "Entanglements" and "The magical properties of unicorn ivory" also deserve special mention (given my love for parallel universes stories).

I also liked the stories (even those I didn't mention above) because, given that I have not had any contact with Cubans (I live in the opposite part of the world), I really liked the characters, their oddities and lives and envied them. Then again, I envy almost every book character. Oh, well.

Anyways, if you're looking for a batch of (mostly) unrelated short stories, for short reading bursts, give it a try. I'll certainly keep an eye on the author.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Roberto.
Author 2 books13 followers
September 11, 2016
One of the best short story collections I have read in the past few years. Funny, interesting, and a page turner. It's also insanely quotable, even if most of the quotes would not make sense before reading the book, all of these make me giggle now:

"He looked like some piebald prophet came to carry humanity onto its next evolution"

"I put my faith in everything I did not understand about the world and stabbed my wife in the ass"

"And then I almost kicked a pigeon"

I would recommend this book to ... well, anyone, but if you enjoyed a book from Kelly Link (I heard some people don't, pobrecitos) you will like this one. It's not as beautifully written, but there is a similarity of wit, of whimsy, of tone. That things can be heartbreaking and funny at the same time, because life is like that.

Profile Image for Luis.
198 reviews21 followers
April 4, 2016
I could not have loved this more. I cannot also be more in the target demographic. I *think* non-Cubans looking for a great sci-fi short story will also thoroughly enjoy it, but it so thoroughly hit so many of my emotional deep spots that I can't say that with any clarity. While you're figuring that out, I'll be buying a paper copy to put on the shelf for my kid to find in 15 years, and perhaps be as enchanted as I was.
Profile Image for Mary.
484 reviews7 followers
April 15, 2018
I didn't know how much I needed this collection of short stories until I read it. All of these stories deal in their own ways with the questions of assimilation, of Latinx (and particularly Cuban) identity. How do we square the traditional Latinx view of the world, its magical realism and supernatural dimensions, with the rationality and science of the dominant culture? Each of these stories hints at the ways we can enrich the one with the other.
Profile Image for Alicia Farmer.
618 reviews
September 20, 2021
The title kind of says...or alludes...to everything in the book: lots of Cuban-American characters and culture, plots involving multiverses, some religion/mysticism, magical realism, and straight up SciFi. Expect: unicorns, ghosts, robot pandas and brain prostheses. After a while the format -- "A thing happened to me; let me tell you about it" -- grew old. The writing was functional, but not memorable.
Profile Image for Christopher.
Author 61 books433 followers
February 8, 2016
In his debut collection, Carlos Hernandez explores the ways in which we conform our identities to fit into worlds that would otherwise break us. But all of his characters strive to reclaim the parts of themselves that could easily be thought of as lost. Funny, smart, and fierce, these stories are a breath of fresh air in a tightly constricted world.
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