Diabolical Plots #53, July 2019

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Diabolical Plots #53, July 2019

“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Two stories with very different moods appear in the latest issue of this monthly on-line publication.

“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires is a humorous fable about a tiny nation and its rulers. After learning something about the land’s environmental history, we witness the Lord and the Prince issue decrees banning everything from newspapers to logic. This makes the story sound like political satire, but there is no apparent point to all the random madness. The author displays a certain manic energy that carries the reader along, but one can’t help wondering what it all means other than mild amusement.

“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore, on the other hand, is a grim and bloody tale with the structure of a murder mystery. The setting is a monastery. All of the monks were violent criminals. The narrator is the neurosurgeon who attached electronic equipment to their scalps, reaching into their brains, which prevents antisocial behavior. The plot begins with the discovery of the dead body of the Abbott by the surgeon. She must find the killer in what seems to be an impossible crime.

The solution to the mystery is plausible, clever, and unexpected. Much more than merely being a whodunit, however, this story raises serious questions about crime and punishment. The theme of free will, and whether people should be allowed to choose evil, reminds me of the classic Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange, although the present work is entirely original.

Victoria Silverwolf often posts on SFFChronicles, a forum where D.A. Xiaolin Spires also appears.