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Science Fiction Trails #7

Science Fiction Trails #7
Science Fiction Trails
Science Fiction Trails can also be ordered from Barnes & Noble.com [bn.com] and amazon.com. The publisher can be contacted at:
David B. Riley
PO Box 8191
Avon CO 81620

Science Fiction Trails Website

A review by Sandra Scholes

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For readers who enjoy reading steampunk stories, the ones in this latest issue of Science Fiction Trails runs along similar lines except David B. Riley's chosen selection of stories are also featured in the Wild West of old. The caption on the front of the magazine, "Where science fiction meets the Wild West," is very apt as it shows what would happen if the technology of today was available to the few over a hundred years ago. Science Fiction Trails #7 contains more tales from some of the most prolific writers in science fiction today. There seems to be a resurgence of Western type science fiction lately, with the movie Cowboys and Aliens starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. There would easily be an interest for this sort of writing -- one we hope that continues to inspire.

Let's kick off with the first story:

"Scarabs From Afar," by Jennifer Brozek

Plans rarely go as right as you would like in any given situation and for Emily and her posse of thieves intends to hold up a train for its stash of jewels can fail even if they have planned it as though they could. Emily starts off as a cocky member of the group, who dreams of taking large sums of money and jewellery, and thinks of what she can buy with them later. She doesn't consider she could be a victim until she is faced with the 'scarabs,' golden beetles from another planet who talk to her, and asks her for an artefact from one of her men, Joe, has in his possession. The question is will he let them have it or cheat them out of it? Even against such alien foe he isn't scared, and acts as though he can take anything in anger down with the use of his gun in true Western fashion. I liked the ending, and the fact that some of the posse were very much in love. It's an all round fun story that plays out like a scene from The Mummy 2.

"Cross of Gold", by C.J. Killmer

Calhoun and Lefty have a train to catch to Wichita, and a job they have to do that could potentially earn them a hell of a lot of cash. The elections are coming up and an inventor who can turn lead into gold has come up with the perfect machine to create an endless supply. Though he thinks it a great idea, others think it would render gold useless. Calhoun and Lefty's job is to destroy the machine. Killmer is up to his usual standard of good natured humour and inventive story writing. I enjoyed the story, and was amazed at the ending, as most folk will be.

"Day of the Dead," by David Lee Summers

Fatemeh Karimi can cure all ills, or so she says, but when a woman comes along wearing a hood to hide the light from her eyes, she wonders what she can do to aid such a woman. Most of the apothecaries have tried to help Mercedes, but all of their supposed cures have not helped at all, they have instead labelled her a monster. Fatemeh doesn't care for the gossiping of others, and instead offers her a cure for her problem that might actually work. Though whether it will work is difficult to say. At first the reader will think that everything they read is unrelated, yet nearer the end, they will think at how clever David Lee Summers has been with his characters. Fatemeh seems like an ordinary woman with cures for all, but others see her as a witch, while Mercedes could be an ordinary woman with an ailment, while others see her as a vampire. In this story, no one is what they seem, and the twist ending, I particularly liked.

"Rainmaker," by Sam Kepfield

Inventions form the basis for a few of the stories in this compilation, and with Professor Kisslinger of the State Agricultural College of Iowa, his invention is a magnetic field generator which changes the weather. Kisslinger declares that when he uses the machine, he can change the weather at will, and after a demonstration in Mason City, five inches of rain fell. Others think it's impossible and might be prepared to let the Injuns do their best instead, but one man can't get the thought of the professor's work out of his mind. A Mr. E. Washburn who is in the real estate business knows no one wants to invest in a house situated on a harsh desert landscape, and sees he has no choice but to ask Kisslinger for his help. If he can turn his desert into a thriving oasis, there might be hope for his business yet. Mr. Kisslinger goes ahead with the job, but he doesn't see what the end result will be if he uses the machine on the town -- and the consequences of his actions. As for the machine, readers will have to make up their own minds on whether it was a good idea or not for Washburn to let him use it. It's a great story that can finish in a fun debate.

"End of Trails," by John Thompson

Bill Benzlow, the county Marshal wants to quit his job and retire in a mansion outside Albuquerque, but the men who know him don't understand why. When Sheriff Kent comes back, he's already hitting the firewater, and the people want to know why. He doesn't want to tell them. The fact is, a hoodlum has got hold of a new gun, and it's one that is unlike any he's ever seen before -- and there's talk of an airship powered by gold, and no one can make anything of the story, only that the hoodlum needs to be captured, and their strange inventions confiscated. It was great to read the references to Da Vinci and his ship designs, as well as Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon -- he's made the technology sound real, and also fit in with the times -- a tall order for any writer, but he's done it and made it believable.

"The Man Who Had No Soul," by John M. Whalen

Professor Harrison is a well-known inventor, and in the style of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, He has created a man from chemicals in a vat who is living and breathing like a real man, but isn't a man, as anyone will know. Since he had created his new life, called him Tom Doolan, he's taken his daughter away, and wants Mr. Slate to kill Tom and bring his daughter back. The professor thinks that his creation is only capable of evil and hatred, yet the reality is different and the reader will have to think on the evidence they find to make up their minds as to what Tom really is. I would have to say this is my overall favourite in this entire collection and gets away from the standard invention type stories from before.

"Glorieta Pass," by Jackson Kuhl

Morton gives Gruber a check for fugitives when they get over to Santa Fe, but one man, Smith, thinks he is a free man, and not on the wanted poster they have. Smith's a dangerous man and Morton has heard enough about him to not want him getting on with the other prisoners in the transport wagon -- he could easily influence them to cause a mutiny. What he finds out is that Smith is a learned man; he can read and write, but what else does he know? This is a thrilling piece of literature which shows what can happen when you tell someone all you know.

"The Competition," by David B. Riley

Grumpy doesn't like the look of the thing outside that just stands there, but it does its job well and knows how to take out the enemy, and being an early prototype robot that looks like a milk churn, it can act as good as law enforcer as any man without causing problems. No one really notices it, only Grumpy and he asks it all sorts of questions, though he finds it doesn't want to answer all of them.

There is a lot of comedy in this short story, and Grumpy comes across as an easy-going, take-it-or-leave-it kind of guy. The chit chat between them and the law enforcement robot being the funniest part where they criticize each other's ways of capturing criminals.

David B. Riley has brought another of his high quality glossy publications together and made it a winner in my eyes, and from what I can see, the stories in each issue can only get stronger.

Copyright © 2012 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes has enjoyed getting into steam punk literature, and loved watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- Dorian Gray being a favourite! She has been published in Love Romance Passion, Active Anime and Fantasy Book Review.


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