Tor.com, August 2022
“Porgee’s Boar” by Jonathan Carroll
“D.I.Y” by John Wiswell
“The Thief of Memory” by Sunyi Dean
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Three very different fantasy stories appear in this issue.
In “Porgee’s Boar” by Jonathan Carroll, a crime boss purchases paintings from an artist because he genuinely admires her work, but he and his associates get away with paying less than she deserves because she is afraid of them. A painting she produces based on an incident from his childhood changes his life in an unexpected way.
The fantasy content of this story is subtle and original. The characters are three-dimensional, avoiding the stereotypes one might expect from a tale involving professional criminals. Without sacrificing clarity, the author creates a work that can be admired both as literature and as genre fiction.
“D.I.Y” by John Wiswell takes place in a version of the modern world where magic works and the planet is suffering from extreme drought. From early childhood, the protagonist tries to enter a prestigious academy of magic. When he discovers that his idol, the head of the institution, has feet of clay, he and a friend make use of social media to come up with their own solution to the world’s need for water.
The theme of the story appears to be the power of people working together for the common good as opposed to organizations interested in their own profit. The magic academy is something of a stereotype of an evil business corporation, using spells to give water to the wealthy while denying it to the poor.
(A possible source of controversy may be the fact that the story has both nonbinary and disabled characters. Readers must decide for themselves if this is a positive sign of inclusion or an attempt at political correctness.)
Set in the kind of imaginary world familiar to readers of sword-and-sorcery adventures, “The Thief of Memory” by Sunyi Dean features a woman who goes into the mountains to obtain water for her people. She encounters a dangerous and deceptive spirit, who entices her into a bargain she comes to regret.
The above synopsis deals only with the story’s initial premise, which is revealed in a flashback in the middle of the narrative. The text begins with the woman, with serious gaps in her memory, pursuing an enemy. The flashback reveals too much, perhaps, about what is really going on, making the conclusion anticlimactic. The tale alternates sections in third person and sections in a mixture of first person and second person. (The spirit is addressing the woman.) Readers may find this confusing at first.
Victoria Silverwolf has been watching episodes of the old Western series Broken Arrow lately.