Though I have reviewed other magazines in the past, I’ve never taken the time to review The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, even though I’ve been a subscriber for years. As a slow reader, I realize that my review of the March, 2009 issue may be somewhat untimely; nevertheless, I offer my belated critique.
“The Curandero and the Swede: A Tale from the 1001 American Nights” by Daniel Abraham – The protagonist brings his fiancé to meet his family in Atlanta. After dinner and the engagement announcement, the men retreat to the porch, where Uncle Dab shares tales within tales of people in fantastical situations who find resolution through the guidance and intervention of odd characters, most notably the curandero.
I found the first tale within a tale a bit unexpected. I had to reread the previous paragraphs because I thought I’d missed something at first. I’m more used to short diversions rather than long meanderings. Once I adjusted to this style, however, the story flowed very well for me.
“The Unstrung Zither” by Yoon Ha Lee – Five adolescent terrorists are held prisoner after attempting to assassinate the Phoenix General. Xiao Lung Yun, at the request of the general, seeks to unlock a secret from the assassins by composing music based on emblems each one drew.
The most recent story of Lee’s that I read was “Architectural Constants,” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and fortunately for me, I found “The Unstrung Zither” to be more within my grasp as a reader. At one point somewhat early on in “The Unstrung Zither,” I guessed at the ending, but then the story shifted, and I doubted my guess. By the story’s end, I discovered that my first thoughts were fairly accurate, but I enjoyed the fact that my uncertainty kept me surprised. Well done.
“That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch – Martin strikes a bargain with the hell train’s conductor, agreeing to ride the train at his death if he’s given a watch that can permanently stop time. Martin’s only dilemma through life is to figure out the precise moment when he’s achieved ultimate happiness.
I think I enjoyed William Tenn’s introduction almost as much as Bloch’s story. Perhaps Gordon Van Gelder will regale his subscribers with tales of publishing adventure in future issues. I know I’d read them. As for Bloch’s work, I always enjoy the occasional man vs. devil story as each tries to deceive the other. A fun read.
“Quickstone” by Marc Laidlaw – Gorlen, a bard with a gargoyle hand, pursues the goyle who cursed him in hopes of having his hand restored. He discovers the goyle at the opening of the depths of the world, essentially a point between the land of men and gargoyles.
I really enjoyed this piece of adventure fantasy, and it was my favorite story of the issue. This is exactly the type of story I like reading the most, and I’d like to see more in the future. Actually, I’d like to read the next Gorlen tale. I hope there’s one coming soon to a magazine near me.
“Shadow-Below” by Robert Reed – Shadow-Below leads a class of adults and adolescents into the wilderness of the future, teaching the primitive ways of living off the land. I’d rather not give anything more than that away. Just read and enjoy.
This was a good issue, and I’m looking forward to reading the giant-sized issue that came in the mail earlier this week. Keep up the good work, writers and staff!