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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #263, October 25, 2018

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #263, October 25, 2018

"The Oracle and the Sea" by Megan Arkenberg

"The Bodice, the Hem, the Woman, Death" by Karen Osborne

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Beneath Ceaseless Skies finished out the month on a high note, with two first-class stories.

"The Oracle and the Sea" by Megan Arkenberg tells the story of Kashmai, a great composer in her land, who had been exiled to a seaside cottage/prison by the dictatorial president of her country. Kashmai is also an oracle, with some ability to predict the future. The President is a fan of her music, and keeps her alive hoping she will compose more. She hates him and refuses, and hates her exile even more. I liked her strong will and the way she stands for her principles despite her despair. The ending was very powerful.

Karen Osborne sketches out a complex society in "The Bodice, the Hem, the Woman, Death," one where the souls of the dead are kept in jewels in order to advise their descendants. But the world is in upheaval: the city where she lives is ruined by war and the souls have been taken to fuel the war machines. Lia is constrained by her mother, a woman with a strong sense of propriety, who refuses to leave their house or to believe that anything has changed. Great characters—the mother's obstinacy defines her well—and the story goes places I never expected.