Friday, October 8, 2010

4 Story reviews

A mixed bag of genres, before I start my usual "Month of Horror" reading:

287. The Fall of the Moon by Jay Lake, from the October 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy. In a world that seems to be in the future of our own (based on the use of certain words and the way characters refer to what used to be), a young man realizes that the insular, despondent life of his family's village is not all there is -- and that taking a risk (even if it is a risk prophecied by a book he finds under a bed) to see what's beyond the horizon is better than staying miserable. Jay Lake's short tale of Hassan and the boat he builds is rife with great details that reveal a world turned extremely dangerous (ocean tides bring in a flood of rodents, but also a flood of predators), but Hassan himself is what propels the story to its open end. Well done.

288. Twins by C.E. Morgan, from the June 14/21, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. This is one of those stories that I really can't figure out what to say about. I didn't hate it, I didn't dislike it even, but I also can't say I liked it. It's the story of very young twin brothers, one light-skinned and one dark, the progeny of mixed parents. It's told with a focus on the darker, less daring, brother and his interactions with more his more daring twin, their smothering single mother, and their distant father. It's full of physical detail that evokes the industrial area of Cincinnati, an area I've passed through and could picture. But I didn't click with the characters or the point of the story.

289. Torhec The Sculptor by Tanith Lee, from the October/November, 2010 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. I'm going to sound like a broken record if someone goes back and rereads all of my Tanith Lee reviews in succession, but I love how she creates alternate Earths that are just a tweak or two away from our own. Is this story far in our future or in an alternate dimension? I don't know, and I'm not sure it really matters. The story is really about the ephemeral nature of art and the ever-lasting nature of man's pride and his doubt. The title character is an artist who creates, and then destroys. He does not sell collectors. Until the "multinaire" Von Glanz names a price high enough. Torhec and Von Glanz are opposite sides of "playing God," one destroying and one preserving. Or are they really all that different? Great story.

290. Death and the Countess by Win Scott Eckert, from The Avenger Chronicles. Another fun foray into the Wold-Newton Crossover Universe by Eckert, this one centering on Richard Benson, the gray-faced Avenger of the pulp magazines, and his team Justice Inc. They are drawn into a conspiracy in which a mysterious Countess is demonstrating a deadly new weapon to be auctioned off to the highest bidder -- and every major nation on the Allied and Axis sides of the soon-to-be World War Two want to get their hands on it. I won't spoil the fun of figuring out just how many other pulp (and other) literary figures Win manages to reference, since that's half the point of the story. A fun, easy read.

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