I was pleased
May-June 2010 issue -- contents(85 posts)
at the insight into the author's inspiration in the intro.
to "The Gypsy's Boy". The story seems the reverse of a fairy tale---"The beings all died unhappily thereafter."
Get the message? I think the story underlines a class of people who, if they are not dead, might as well be. Their lives add up to nothing. But they exist, and their fate is ours.
What's happening here is that my long,
So you're aware.
The server SAID it was obliterating these postings. "Slow down, you move too fast."
Well, I'll try to post some comments about the stories.
I also read "Remotest Mansions of the Blood", a title seemingly derived from the South American poet Octavio Paz, "The restless city circles in my blood like a bee."
Irvine: Remotest mansions of the blood
This is the story of Arthur and Maria, in the Central American town of Caracol after an earthquake has literally and spiritually shaken things up. Arthur is here to escape his old life and seek mysteries he can hardly imagine; Maria lives here. In a clever symbol, Arthur leans on one of the remaining walls of his shattered house, propping himself up and ignoring the open walls behind him.
Equally clever is how differently the two imagine themselves and others: Arthur's a hopeless romantic who imagines he's in love with Maria, 19 years younger, though he knows little about her beyond her name and age. He doesn't know that she knows he's watching her or that she's been watching him in turn. He's emotionally immature, ignoring the (unseen to us) woman of his age who is his sometimes lover. Maria's clear-eyed and practical; she knows she wants to be in love, and she's methodically evaluating the romantic candidates.
Arthur's life has no sense of meaning or control, and his chaotic and uncontrollable dreams reflect this. He knows only that he's seeking mystery. Maria Rios (Spanish for rivers, thus a steady flow?) knows precisely what she wants, and therefore dreams lucidly: she controls her dreams, which reflect her strong, analytical waking mind. Her potential lovers compete for her in the eponymous "mansions of the blood", where the dead linger until their loved ones stop dreaming of them and can move on. In these struggles, Maria is ranking and comparing the candidates, but something stranger is also going on.
A confession: I don't really "get" the tropes, and protocols of magic realism. I don't read it enough, and I don't enjoy the style. What do the mansions of the blood really represent? Best I can tell, they symbolize the human heart, a literal mansion of the blood but also a metaphorical portrayal of the ways we reimagine our lovers and beloveds through the filter of our longings. In that sense, the mansions are the little emotional boxes in which we store others, and the title's "remotest" mansion is the one most difficult to reach: it's a final, realistic portrayal of that person's reality, stripped of the fantasies we impose upon them.
[Spoiler] All of this setup is literalized in a closing dream sequence set in Arthur's remotest mansion: Arthur kills the dream-demon he names Otros Gringo ("the other honky"), who represents the demons in his soul and his layers of self-deception. By dream-eating that demon and stripping away what it conceals, he symbolically uncovers his would-be lover's true shape—though we never learn what that shape is. This was the only serious mis-step: after establishing an interesting, powerful character, Irvine disappears her from the story. I imagine it was necessary for Arthur's illusion of Maria to "die" so he could metaphorically triumph over self-delusion, and that in magic realism, such things are par for the course. But given that Maria is a real and compelling character for the first half of the story, the result felt more like Irvine eliminating a female character who'd served her purpose, not an organic evolution of his metaphor.
In Spanish, "caracol" refers to a spiral pattern. This is literalized by the snails one character harvests for the purple dye that can be produced from them. But it's also metaphorical, as the story spirals around its inner core until Arthur finally reaches his inner core.
"Mansions" shows how the maxim "show, don't tell" can be ignored, mostly to good effect, by a skilled writer. Whether you'll like the result is less clear. I found too much "tell", which made the puppet strings the author was dangling too obtrusive. Irvine's puppets had little freedom beyond what was necessary to accomplish the story. There is interesting, sometimes lyrical, writing, but in the end, the story failed to satisfy.
I would offer that the style is symbolism combined with surrealism in a mode of writing which was usually found among South American writers. The title resembles Paz' imagery of a city circulating in the bloodstream. In the story are internalized buildings, which I have seen frequently in Dadaist art. These seem to represent the environment overmastering the dwellers in it.
Goldstein: Seven sins for seven dwarves
One of the fun things about SF/F is how endlessly the old tales can be reworked and merged with other tales to produce something new. Here, the tale is "Snow White and the seven dwarves". As in the original, Snow has been banished to the forest and falls in with seven dwarves. But these are not Disney dwarves; they are darker, more mysterious figures who have been charged with some mysterious but very important service they must perform, and who don't want Snow around to distract them.
Their service relates to mysterious "voices", and the dwarves sing each night before they sleep to keep those voices at bay. They are also digging a very deep hole (their mine) to bury something that has not yet been revealed. Their bedroom is a mystery, locked with three keys that must be used in a specific sequence to prevent the door from being barred against further entry, and when Snow hears a voice beyond the door, she persuades September, the youngest dwarf, to let her in so she can see what lies beyond the door. The dwarves' room has seven beds and seven locked chests, one of which calls out irresistably to Snow. Unable to help herself, she reaches out to touch the chest, and an orgasmic encounter with some mysterious force within the chest ensues.
Is this nothing more than gratuitous eroticism to keep the guys in the audience reading, or a clue to something more interesting? Yes. [spoilers] It turns out each chest contains a demon that represents some form of sin, possibly the seven deadly sins (not all are named, so we can't be sure). It seems clear the first chest Snow touched contained "Lust". Unus, oldest of the dwarves, fears that Snow may learn too much about the chests, and he replaces Snow's stepmother: he places her in an enchanted sleep via the traditional poisoned apple that gets stuck in her throat. But September has fallen in love with Snow, and shakes loose the apple to free her.
The tale of Pandora then ensues, which is a bit surprising given that up to now, Snow has been much stronger and smarter than her Disney counterpart: Sure that Unus has already released and been possessed by his demon, Snow plots with September to sneak into the room while the dwarves sleep, so she can open Unus' chest to prove her suspicions. (The clever way to do this would have been to ask each of the other dwarves to touch the chest; it would be easy for them to feel whether it was still occupied.) Unfortunately, she has guessed wrong because Unus switched chests with another of the dwarves. As a result, she releases one of the demons ("Invidia" = envy). In the ensuing mess, she is possessed by the demon, and September smashes open Unus' real chest to prove it empty. Enraged, Unus kills September. It's not clear from the description whether another demon is released: "nothing but the exhalation of old air, like the last gasp of a secret" can be a description of the demon, or a literal statement that the demon was already gone. The latter seems most likely given that the chest contained Vanagloria (boastfulness), and Unus has been nothing if not boastful at his prowess in defeating his demon.
The writing is simple and largely unornamented, never gets in the way of the story, and is mostly effective. I found it less clear towards the end, and had to reread the last few pages to be certain of what had happened. Possibly I just wasn't sufficiently caffeinated. Snow tells us the dwarves have chosen to release the remaining demons, on the principle that this will in some way prevent any one demon from becoming too powerful, but it's not clear why this makes any kind of sense. Also, unlike in Pandora's tale, there is no sense that any of the chests contains hope. The story ends on an ominous note, with Snow hinting that she's going to be around far longer than a normal mortal lifespan. And since she's still hosting the demon, that's clearly not a "happily ever after" ending.
Bailey rapidly and skillfully immerses us in a boy's highschool nightmare: Philip is the chosen target of the school bully, Junior Starnes, and within a few paragraphs we're living his nightmare. The tone is perfect, at least from the perspective of the older Philip recalling his teen self, the writing completely fades out of the way and draws us into the story, and events get moving swiftly.
One day, trying to evade an after-school beating by Junior, Philip runs into the woods. There, he hears a high-pitched, emphatically non-human sound that nonetheless speaks to him of desperate sorrow and pain. He's the kind of kid who has rescued a wounded rabbit from a cat, only to have it die in his arms, so he can't resist helping. Drawn by the sound, he stumbles across a creature he can't initially see, other than as a blur, but that is nonetheless real. It reminded me of one of the stick-figure Sidhe in Charles de Lint's "Newford" series. He reaches out to comfort the wounded creature, it in turn reaches out to him, and they comfort each other.
As in the case of the creature Philip meets in the woods, the story's heart is about seeing the unseen that most people miss. The supernatural echoes how Philip's teachers, and more seriously, his fellow students, manage not to see him or help save him from being bullied. It would be nice if teachers paid enough attention to stop such things, or saw the symptoms and asked a social worker to solve the problem at its roots (the bully's home environment), but all we ever hear about in the media is the lack of any assistance. Similarly, though we often hear of teen gangs "swarming" (and beating) other children, they never seem to band together to attack bullies. Some teachers don't even recognize Philip well enough to know his real name, and call him "Peter"; it's painfully ironic that Junior knows his actual name better than they do. Philip's parents also don't see him as well as they should; they're working long hours to afford his older sister's university tuition and save for his tuition.
Right from the start, Philip's adult self, narrating this old history, equates Junior with a monster, and proceeds to tell us this will be a story about "the thing in the woods", hinting at another monster. [Spoilers] We know instantly where this is going: Junior will follow Philip into the woods, and the "thing" will kill "the monster", thereby repaying Philip's kindness. Only that's not what happens, and it's a nice subversion of expectations. In a fit of terror, pursued into the woods by Junior, Philip gathers the wounded thing into his arms and begs it to be silent so Junior won't find them. And when it won't be quiet, he holds his hand over its mouth to silence it—and in so doing, possibly smothers it. (It's wounded, and does not struggle against Philip, so it may also have died on its own.) The thing's subsequent silence is echoed in the silence that greets Philip when he leaves the woods and returns to his world: all sound has symbolically vanished along with the creature's life. Is this a literal retelling of events, or is the creature's death purely a symbolic retelling of the crushing of Philip's soul?
The writing style belongs to the Bradbury school, but without being nearly so ornate or drenched in imagery and not nearly so nostalgic; it's distinctive, not an hommage. (Besides... did Bradbury ever write a "childhood as horror story" tale like this one?) Still, Bailey's voice is resonant and at times even poetic, and the details (such as portraying the bully and his enabler as Grendel and his mother) are excellent. A powerful, evocative piece.
This is the tale of the Blessed Lady of Dark Forever, Lady Death by another name, and I chose that namesake deliberately: in "Forever", Pollack is writing in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" vein. That's not to say her writing is in any way derivative or a pastiche: she has her own distinctive voice and goals, and shifts her voice gracefully from the poetry of Forever's supernatural world to a more mundane style when Forever enters the human world for a time.
Here, the story starts as one of sibling rivalry, as often happens in "Sandman", with the rivalry taking the form of a seemingly innocent contest: Forever's sisters propose a contest in which each must predict the fate of a human, and the loser must spend a day on Earth in a human body. Forever sees no harm in this, and tries to "fix" the contest by choosing someone she is certain will die within a year—and as Death, she knows whereat she speaks. However, her sister Sky must always win these contests, and Forever knows this: that makes it surprising she doesn't suspect a trap. Ocean and Sky predict the dying woman will be transformed into a tree, which is the kind of unsubtle hint the contest is rigged, yet Forever fails to notice. As they predicted, the dying woman transforms through (their?) divine intervention into a lilac tree (form taken by the nympth Syrinx to escape Apollo's love). Subsequently, the tree woman acquires a reputation for healing the sick.
Having lost the bet, and angry at herself for being so foolish, Forever descends to Earth and enters the body of a young woman, Karen. Although she is nominally there for only a day, something happens that prevents her from leaving the woman's body, or even remembering her true identity. She lives in Karen's body for months, reminded daily at the time of her first entry into the woman's body that something is wrong, though no doctor or psychiatrist can determine the cause of her daily malaise. That cause, a reminder that she has finished her day's penance and can return, is unlikely to be discovered by mundane means. The spiritualist Andrew Crow-Talker catches a glimpse of the reason, but she turns away and refuses to press him for details.
Karen seeks many remedies, eventually settling on romance. She falls in "like" with Bob Hand (the relationship is described so dispassionately it doesn't seem to be love), and when she meets his sister Eleanora, develops a far stronger bond with her. It's not carnal in any way, but rather a reflection of Forever remembering her bond with her supernatural sisters. [Spoilers] When Eleanora sickens with a rare disease that will soon kill her, Forever fixates on saving her—but nothing works until her doctor tells her of the lilac tree that heals the sick. Forever takes Eleanora there, and the tree offers to save her on one condition: Forever must return to her home and take up once more the mantle of Death. We learn the true reason Forever never returned home after her day was over: she wanted to run away from her responsibilities, thereby explaining her lack of foresight and inability to escape her fleshly prison. From the love she bears Eleanora, she returns home, and the story ends.
The premise is skillfully established, and events follow naturally from it. There isn't really anything vastly new here, since the notion of Death needing to learn sympathy for her human and other charges is an old, well-trodden literary path. But it's still a well-written, entertaining story. I found insufficient clues that Forever was dissatisfied with her deathly responsibilities, making the concluding explanations ring a bit hollow, if not precisely false. Another mis-step is referring to The Kindly Ones using the phrase "as some called cancer"; the Eumenides have too much resonance as the Greek Furies (gods of vengeance) to be used in this way. These problems detract from, but don't ruin, what is otherwise a decent entry into the genre of Death stories.
Onopa: The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe
This story starts out and continues in full-on Bradbury mode, with an elegant and simple writing style that completely vanishes behind the story despite occasional lovely flourishes, such as describing the model train couplers as "linked fists" (perfect!) and "racing moonlight" (pretty!). I never really "got" the attraction of model trains as a child, but Onopa helped me understand why others like them by evoking a nostalgic flash back to one of my own childhood treasures: a tethered model helicopter that swung around a tiny (1-foot radius?) circle and let you maneuver it to pick up and drop cargo around the circle.
This story offers a dramatic contrast with "Silence" earlier in this issue, since the overall atmosphere is much happier—at least initially. "The Atchison" is part of the genre of "let's take a familiar idea and move forward a few years to see how it changes" stories. Here, the trains are equipped with surprisingly sophisticated artificial intelligence, the landscape grows and changes, and the model people move around and interact. Very nanotech, or perhaps microtech since everything's large enough to be visible. All very well so far as it goes, but there are hints something stranger is going on; most significantly, the train set's microcosmic world appears to be growing even though Matt, the kid who received it as a gift, is certain he didn't build some of the new additions. When Matt makes the two parts of this world overlap (the "retro" people from the world of steam trains and the futuristic people from a world with an advanced monorail), fighting breaks out. Something has clearly gone nastily wrong.
[Spoilers] Sure enough, the artificial intelligence in the system has evolved, and is beginning to run more than a little amok. One of the lead characters in this virtual universe (call them "The Sims" for convenience), "The Chief", is the conductor of the steam train and serves as Matt's main interface with the virtual world. Matt asks him to arbitrate between the two worlds to stop the fighting before it gets any farther out of hand. That seems to work just fine; the fighting stops and people from both worlds happily intermingle. But it turns out not to be such a good thing that two worlds are now collaborating. The Chief has an extramarital affair with the conductor of the future train, children begin to appear and multiply, and the Sims begin raiding Matt's garden and kitchen when they need more resources. As the Sims grow more sophisticated and more real, their expeditions beyond their tiny world grow ever bolder.
Matt becomes sufficiently scared by their independence that he feels the need to reboot the system—and fails, since the Sims saw this coming and have taken measures to back themselves up. The story ends when they capture Matt's parents and truss them up in bed, like Lilliputians capturing Gulliver. Then they capture Matt too...
Early on, Matt works with the Chief to fix minor problems. But the Chief soon turns nasty, stalling for time and blaming Matt for what has gone wrong with the virtual world. Nothing in Matt's personality suggests he's subsconsciously seeking such a nasty outcome. Because the leader of the future portion of the Sims' world strongly resembles a younger version of Matt's mother, this hints that the virtual world's artificial intelligence is trying to manipulate Matt. Onopa has written an interesting little cautionary tale about our software creations escaping our control. It's mean to be chilling, as in the best of Bradbury's darker work, and it largely succeeds.
Hall: The Gypsy's boy
This starts out as a simple pastoral tale of a young boy who is sold by his parents, who already have more children than they need, to a Gypsy in exchange for a horse they do need. (As an etymological note, there is some debate over whether "Gypsy" is considered to be as offensive to the Romani peoples as "Eskimo" is to the Yupik and Inuit. Self-identification varies, but I suspect the characters in the story are more likely to refer to themselves as Romani or various variant forms of that name.) When the boy is blinded at an early age by a fever, his new owner beats him and almost abandons him, but instead sells him to an old Gypsy woman who has no family of her own to help her, and who needs a strong set of hands. She names him Bireli. I couldn't find any translation of the name in a quick Google, so I can't say whether the name is symbolic.
The two develop a loving grandmother–grandson relationship, as she teaches him all the skills he needs to survive and help her with her own survival. It's a necessary symbiosis, but also clearly a loving one, and Bireli flourishes, growing and exploring his world with his other senses, and gradually coming to understand the world in a way the sighted often cannot. It's not that we lack the ability, but rather that we are so distracted by sight we tend to take the easy way out and let our other senses wither.
When the old woman dies, Bireli is left alone, and although there are many things he can do without sight, there are many he cannot (such as driving his wagon to a town where he can sell his wares and obtain food). Fortunately, a wind spirit happens along while he is still mourning his loss, and takes pity on him when he calls out to her. So few humans can see her or her kind that this is something remarkable to her, and as in so many fairy tales, the two quickly fall in love and commence an *ahem* tempestuous romance.
[spoilers] Things seem likely to become a "happily ever after" until Bireli begins to imagine what his lover looks like, and that imagination quickly becomes a desperate need to actually see her. When his frustration at being unable to see her turns into unbearable sadness, he weeps, and this causes her to weep too. When she does, her tears drip into his eyes, healing them and restoring his vision—and when he turns his gaze upon his lover, he sees what one might expect: nothing. And because he sees nothing, it becomes impossible for him to see her any more, and their happiness is ended forever. The wind spirit flees into the sky, never to return to Earth, and Bireli goes on to a future that is at least temporarily bleak; though he can now see and take care of himself, he has lost his lover.
On the one hand, this can be seen as nothing more than a tragic love story in the classical mythological tradition. But on a deeper level, the story is about how we create fantasies about those we love, and how we risk losing them if we insist on those fantasies and then make the mistake of looking so close that we discover the reality and wreck the fantasy. It's also about how these fantasies are not necessarily harmful, since they often give us what we need to ignore the imperfections of our loved ones—and vice versa, of course. Like all the best morality tales, this message is implicit rather than waved in our faces, and as a result, it's an eloquently conveyed moral and a compelling story.
"...how we create fantasies about those we love, and how we risk losing them if we insist on those fantasies and then make the mistake of looking so close that we discover the reality...." How nicely said, Geoffhart! This story reminded me (without being at all derivative) of a Hawthorne story--like "The Birthmark"--not only in its theme but in its beautiful, restrained telling. What a good, interesting issue of F&SF this one is!
Popkes: The crocodiles
Popkes delivers a nightmare scenario that can't end well: Max, our narrator, is pressganged by the Gestapo to assist in medical research on a particularly nasty disease that creates "tote Männer", the German term for "dead men" (i.e., zombies). Popkes provides a mostly credible scientific explanation for how the infection spreads into the brain, and posits that zombies crave brains to spread the disease. The latter isn't credible, since once eaten, brains could no longer spread the disease. We can handwave this by assuming it was a revision error: if the zombies crave flesh to sustain themselves, not brains, then the explanation hangs together well enough to be a plausible hard SF premise.
Max is an unsympathetic character, though he's married and clearly loves his wife and son. But he's completely, monstrously indifferent to the Gypsies and Jews provided by the Gestapo as lab rats. Trained as an engineer rather than a biologist, he takes on the role of helping to weaponize the zombies as literal shock troops and to ramp up production by applying a little "German engineering". His investigation of the problem is a nasty parody of the hard SF "scientific inquiry" genre: Max solves technical problems such as how to deliver zombies to the target and keep them warm enough to fight in winter. Like the title crocodiles, they function only under warm conditions, When they become formidable killers. Of course, you don't want them turning on your troops either, and that's another engineering problem Max helps to solve.
[Spoiler] Inevitably, the zombies turn on their creators, and the Nazis are hoist on their own petard. But in the field, the zombies have evolved in ways that weren't seen under laboratory conditions: they can feed themselves and build fires to survive the winter. Whether England (infected via V2 rockets and wounded troops returned home for treatment) and Germany (bombed using Allied zombies) will survive the growing apocalypse is doubtful.
The story's title is also a pointed metaphor for Max et alia, who are cold-blooded killers who lack the excuse of their reptilian namesakes; crocodiles, after all, must play their evolved role to survive. "Crocodiles" sharply critiques scientists who work in the defense industry and believe they're doing nothing more than solving interesting engineering challenges, with no human implications. Popkes also reminds us of the perils of modern genetic engineering and biotechnology; it's easy to foresee experiments escaping the lab, particularly when conducted with malevolent intent. The results probably won't be zombies, but may be equally unforseen and nasty. (Don't buy it? See the current issue of Scientific American for thoughts on future bioterrorism.) "Crocodiles" is as chilling and horrific as anything I've read since Yolen's "Briar Rose", and will leave deep wounds in my peace of mind for some time.
I have only one serious criticism: we see no evidence of any Germans with a different perspective than Max's. You can handwave this as the choice of a self-involved narrator who focuses exclusively on his own concerns. But an author as skillful as Popkes should have hinted somewhere that other Germans exist—by reporting horror on the victims' faces, or having someone try to destroy the project—thereby showing that Popkes knows Max isn't typical of all Germans. I saw no such hints, turning the Germans into unnuanced villains. Recent historical research has confirmed not only that most Germans eagerly embraced Nazism, but that a sizeable proportion knew of and encouraged the horrors being perpetrated by their government. But many Germans resisted actively, even risking their lives (I personally know two Germans whose families suffered terribly as a result). That weakens an otherwise powerful and scary story.
Hm, I'm little late with my comments, but I finished this issue of my favourite magazine some time last week and read The City and The City by Mieville and reread The Roadside Picnic by Strugatsky brothers in the meantime.
Since the July-August still haven't reached these shores here, I reckon it's better to write some of my thoughts now than never.
First, there is next to none SF in the issue. It bothers me a little, because I prefer SF to fantasy, although there is lot of good reading here.
Why that Crazy Old Woman... by Michael Libling would have been the best story this year in F&SF if it had better ending. Like this it's just an excellent story. Excellent prose, lively characters, interesting premise, everything I like in stories.
Thief of Shadows is one of the four Shadow Thief installments til now, but this one simply didn't work for me. I expect from sword and sorcery at least to be entertaining, but this one, although competently written, didn't offer much of entertainment.
The worst Shadow story so far.
A History of Cadmium is another interesting story, beautifully written, although at times little confusing, but this being the first story by this writer, it shows great promise for the future.
The Real Martian Chronicles is a short story by deceased John Sladek, probably most known for his Roderick the Robot stories as well as his spoofs using the names of other famous SF writers. This should've been another P...p K. D..k's story.
Then we come to, in my opinion, the best story in this issue.
I don't remember reading anything by mr. Schutz before (although I must've read at least one of his stories), but after Dr. Death vs the Vampire I'll certainly remember his name. Excellent, funny, witty, with great ending, everything I wish from the good story. Almost-superheroes, great. This one is award material, deffinitely.
Remotest Mansions of the Blood by excellent Alex Irvine is part horror, part magical realism. It could've been written by some south American, or late Jose Saramago. It's not as good as Schutz or Libling story, but it's good nevertheless.
Seven Sins for Seven Dwarves is another letdown. Only rarely I like fairytale reworks, and this is no exception. Boring.
I am glad that Dale Bailey is back. He was one of my favourite horror writers in F&SF. Silence is good, but not as good as his best stories. The ending is one part great and one part disappointing (I wished for the almost happy ending I knew won't come).
Forever by Rachel Pollack has pretty old theme, nicely written, but after reading a story in Asimov's few months ago with similar theme (by Chris Beckett), this one left me somewhat cold. Great ending though.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe is SF horror story, by Robert Onopa (he publishes pretty rarely). It's a very good story, something of a Toy Story gone badly wrong.
The Gypsy's Boy is another fantasy, this time romance fantasy, good, but not great.
The Crocodiles by Stephen Popkes (whose Ice I liked immensely) is fast paced alternative history zombie horror story. Great story, great writing and bleak ending. What more could you wish for.
All in all, in this issue we have few rotten apples, but there are at least four great stories, and I mean really great.
Although The History of Terraforming by Robert Reed in July Asimov's is probably the best SF story I've read this year.
I've finally got around to reading most of this issue and I'm enjoying it immensely. The story that has resonated with me the most so far is Silence. Wonderfully sad story that almost made me cry. It reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, and how kids are so horrible to each other, so hurtful.
I really enjoyed Dr Death vs the Vampire. It was great to see a protagonist that was so broken and that had so many faults. It reminded me a bit of Dexter. I hope that we get more installments in the future. The fact that he was part of a League of Almost-Superheroes was the perfect touch, since he is 'almost' a superhero himself, but is too screwed up to really be likeable or to be a hero. I can see a lot of character development in the future if that's in the author's mind.
I'd have to say that the only stories that haven't worked for me so far are A History of Cadmium and The Remotest Mansions of the Blood. A lot of this issue seems to be dedicated to very literary prose, which is fine, but sometimes things can be a bit too heavy to make them cumbersome and dull. And I thought these two stories were like that. What really killed Cadmium for me was Caddie's reaction that Julia is actually her mother and the way Julia just gave up her child, just like that, all those years ago.... That Cassandra let her baby die, etc, etc, it was all just a bit too.... fake. I know this is a fantasy magazine and all, but the characters just felt too much like characters and not people. And this nice little wrap up at the end where we're supposed to... be shocked? feel sympathetic? laugh bitterly? I have no idea. I just felt let down.
Remotest Mansions of the Blood was just dull. I didn't care for the protagonist, whose name I can't even remember, and I didn't care if he gets the girl or not or what was going on. Nothing happens in that story.
I still have the final third of the magazine to read. Excited to see what awaits!
Some stories from the issue reviewed at BEST SF:
BEST SF has posted their full review of the issue: http://www.bestsf.net/2010/09/24/fantasy-science-fiction-mayjune-2010/
Here's a blog review of this issue: http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/magazines/fsf-2010-05.htmlPosted 2 years ago #
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