Friday, March 27, 2009

Fantasy & Science Fiction, April/May 2009

“The Spiral Briar” by Sean McMullen – Tordral, the master armorer, seeks help from those who have suffered from the actions of the elves. Tordral desires revenge against those in Faerie by combining elements, a necessity for anything, weapon or person, to cross worlds. The disparate group of men know only pieces of Tordral’s scheme, a secret kept to protect the project in case any single person becomes enchanted by the elves.

I liked the shifting point of view that drove each scene forward. I’m always a bit awestruck by the elves – their magic and enigmatic ways – but I also like to see their limitations and weaknesses. I think it’s the smug, prideful attitudes of the elves that gets under my skin, so stories like this that jab back at the elves make me grin.

“The Brave Little Toaster – A Bedtime Story for Small Appliances” by Thomas M. Disch – Five appliances, abandoned by their owner in a summer cottage, desire to leave the home they know to find their owner’s apartment in the city.

This reprint is a classic. It’s like a Disney cartoon (on paper). Though I’ve never read it before, it seemed familiar, like a story I might have heard as a child and forgot.

“The Avenger of Love” by Jack Skillingstead – Norman chases a thief who has stolen pieces of his memory – not the memories themselves, but the strong emotions connected to the memories. His pursuit takes him into a lawless world under the guidance of his childhood imaginary friend.

I felt a bit confused at times when I read this, but overall, the story made sense. I just wasn’t that into this one.

“A Wild and a Wicked Youth” by Ellen Kushner – Richard and his mother, Octavia, live outside the city, supported by the funding from Lord Trevelyan. The lord’s son, Crispin, is Richard’s best friend, though Crispin is not always an easy friend to have. When a drunken swordsman collapses near Richard’s home, Octavia compensates the man to train her son in the art of swordsmanship.

The narrative is something to be studied by writers, for the narrative and dialog come together impressively. The sexuality wasn’t explicit, thankfully, but I didn’t like where it went, particularly between Richard and Crispin.

“Andreanna” by S.L. Gilbow – Andreanna, an android tour guide, suffers injuries from a high fall, and technicians attempt to repair her.

The unique method of narrative was refreshing. All dialog or thought (as in the beginning), it tells quite a bit without focusing on anything distracting. Really interesting story.

“Stratosphere” by Henry Garfield – The narrator tells about his days playing professional baseball on the moon with the legendary Joe “Stratosphere” Stromboni who once hit a ball so hard that it went into orbit.

I grew up following baseball, so stories like this hit home with me (pun intended). In recent years, I’ve stopped watching ballgames in favor of other sports, so I could identify with a narrator who also seems a bit tired of the game yet still has nostalgia for days gone by. This was a nice surprise in this issue.

“Sea Wrack” by Edward Jesby – Gunnar, a man from the sea, visits humans on land while recovering from recent injuries. One of the humans, Greta, is drawn to Gunnar, if for no other reason than the fact that he is different.

This reprint wasn’t one that I cared much for. I wasn’t drawn to the characters in the story, and without that connection, I lost interest.

“The Price of Silence” by Deborah J. Ross – Devlin has recently joined Juno’s crew as their new medic. The ship’s assignment takes them to a planet named Winter that had been colonized ten years ago, yet neither the colony nor the orbiting space station respond to any hails.

I enjoyed the protagonist and narrative in this science-fiction story. Except for the sex scene (too explicit for my tastes at that), I really liked this one. It’s the type of space science-fiction I enjoy: intriguing, mysterious and moving at a good pace.

“One Bright Star to Guide Them” by John C. Wright – Thomas, middle-aged and displeased with life, discovers the fantasies of his youth and recalls the adventures he shared with three of his friends. A talking cat, Tybalt, calls upon Thomas to once more combat the forces of evil that now threaten to control England and the present-day world.

By far, this was my favorite story of the issue. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, I felt like Wright’s fantasy world was well-established and adventurous. As a Christian, I found so many symbolic meanings that at times I felt like I was reading something by Lewis. That isn’t to say that Wright himself is a Christian (I don’t really know), but if not, he seems to know much Biblical truth. There is so much darkness in this world, and many are blind, bound in promises of pleasure that only lead to misery and death. Wonderful tale. Well told!


John C. Wright said...

Just for the record, I was not a Christian when I wrote that story, all but the ending.

I was, however, even though I disagreed with him, a fan of C.S. Lewis.

The last three paragraphs I rewrote after my conversion, and not for any other reason but to make the story tighter.

You never can tell with writers, can you? They are a tricksy lot.

John C. Wright

Matthew Wuertz said...

That's really interesting! No, you never can tell with writers because the good ones can create characters (or narrators) with very different values from their own.