Tor.com , July 2010
“Olga” by C.T. Adams
“Fare Thee Well” by Cathy Clamp
“Eve of Sin City” by S.J. Days
“A Stroke of Dumb Luck” by Shiloh Walker
“The President’s Brian is Missing” by John Scalzi
“The Cage” by A.M. Dellamonica
Reviewed by Bob Blough
I was excited when I was given the July issue of Tor.com to review. In two short years it has published several of my favorite stories and I read the site avidly. However, I was to discover that July was Tor.com’s salute to urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I can enjoy urban fantasy but really don’t enjoy paranormal romance. Most of the offerings this month are of that ilk, unfortunately.
“Olga” by C.T. Adams concerns an “earth mage” who uses the earth as her font of power. She has been helping in Haiti after the earthquake and has depleted her magical powers. At this time her sister and brother-in-law are killed by a car bomb, and a magical grimoire is stolen from their apartment. This then becomes a “who” stole the grimoire story and devolves into a magic duel to the death between two powerful mages. It’s a by-the-numbers story–not at all up to the level I have expected from Tor.com.
“Fare Thee Well” by Cathy Clamp starts out a bit more to my taste. It’s about the daughter of a mortician taking a summer job in the county morgue. Unfortunately, the morgue turns out to be built over a very important opening to the underworld. The set-up of the protagonist’s innocence concerning this location, and the person who happens to deliver a corpse also totally unaware of the situation was too far fetched for me, stretching my sense of disbelief to the breaking point. It was obviously authorial fiat in order to make the story work. Not my favorite.
“Eve of Sin City” by S.J. Days is a sidebar taken from a series of novels. It tells one self-contained story, but not having read the previous books made it a boring read. Eve is loved by two men–“Alec Cain” and “Reed Abel.” (Notice the biblical references. Guess which one drives the kick-ass motorcycle and which one looks good in a suit.) Eve is involved in coming to grips with a particular kind of demon stalking the city. I didn’t believe it.
Shiloh Walker’s “A Stroke of Dumb Luck” is about a tough talking “mongrel aniera” (half human and half fairy) who is also a swords-person. Her sister has been kidnapped by “were-rats” and she is charged with rescuing her. It’s a traditional gaming scenario that works when you play these games on line but makes for predictable stories.
Thank God for John Scalzi. His contribution this month isn’t great SF but is very funny. Titled “The President’s Brain is Missing,” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It concerns a certain fictional president who has lost his brain. He still functions, mind you, as well as always. In fact the only way the brain was discovered missing was because the President’s head kept popping up like a cork in the presidential swimming pool. (A vision I cannot get out of my mind and makes me laugh every time I think of my favorite mindless president swimming!) It has a science fictional rationale but should be read for the humor. It’s a hoot.
“The Cage” by A.M. Dellamonica is more interesting than the urban fantasies and paranormal romances offered this month because it’s not simply regurgitating the tropes of those specific subgenres. Unfortunately, it does involve werewolves (albeit, a standard horror trope) and so I had to work hard to become interested in the story. The writing is much better and the characters are characters instead of ciphers, but the story about a young girl needing to be caged each month at the full moon is old and tired as well. The characters and writing style do make up for these cliches to a certain degree, so I give it a qualified thumbs up.
I hope Tor.com is up to their usual standards next month.