Reviewed by Cyd Athens
In Rob Steiner’s “The Oath-Breaker’s Daemon,” a twenty-first century magus stranded in Ancient Rome is called upon by a young patrician to find a special item for a Praetorian Prefect. The magus’ payment is to be the rarest spell component he needs in order to return to his own time. As is often the way with such stories, things don’t go easily or as planned. This interesting tale of adventure and intrigue Tuckerizes not only Asimov, but also his laws of robotics.
Roo Cha-be, aka Prisoner C.B., is the protagonist of Holliann R. Kim’s “Look After Your Brother.” A Sneak Lord who, through use of a drug, is able to not only see through the eyes of wolves, but also direct their actions, he has not seen his family in some time. When his brother, a hero, comes on unrelated business to the prison where Cha-be is being held, their unintentional reunion is a surprise to both men. Even more surprising is the turn of events that takes place after they have a brief chance to talk. There are a number of surprises well-integrated into this tale. Fortunately, by the end of the story, there are no loose ends.
“Broodmother” by Jakob Drud gives us a five-year-old girl, Malia, who complains of what appears to be a bug bite on her tummy. It tickles. When Malia’s father and mother follow up with an emergency visit to the doctor, they learn that their child has been impregnated by aliens—the same species whose flesh ship is carrying them to a new world. The vessel’s human military will not let them abort the alien fetuses. This interesting story on a controversial topic touches many emotional chords. It is only slightly marred by subpar copy editing, a fault that rests with the publication, not the author. Recommended.
That Andrea G. Stewart’s “A Good Mother” concerns a shapechanger is apparent from the story’s opening line. These morphing beings are kailun, and imbibing their essence reverses aging in the human community of which the narrator, Ulaa, is a part. She befriends one of the kailun, Pehlu, and things take some predictable turns as the pair continues their unsanctioned relationship. This is a variant of coming of age/forbidden friendship tales.
“The Crow's Word” by Stephen Case is an overlong novella which concerns Queen Mab’s reappearance in the world, and her desire to revive her museum and her followers. The story is told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator who is confronted with both a talking crow and a woman, Carla, who can revive inanimate objects—things like the lion statues at a public library, or a cow-shaped creamer, or a carved humanoid statue—with a touch. By the end of the tale, the narrator is closer to both deciding what to do about Mab’s request for his assistance and understanding himself. However, the journey to his decision point is so long that much that happens along the way is lost.
Edmund R. Schubert’s Jafartha is furious with his son, Kitja, because the young man in “The Last HammerSong” doesn’t “want to cut off his four-armed mother’s upper left arm,” her remaining strong arm as his brother has already cut off her right upper arm. This removal of both upper arms, leaving only her weaker lower ones is a condoned ritual way of showing the community that their family is so wealthy that their females don’t need to be independent—a statement Jafartha is determined to make. On the one hand, this is a great story about doing the right thing. On the other hand, why is it so often the females who have to be rescued or defended by the males?
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W. Comments on Cyd’s reviews are welcome at www.cydathens.net.
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