Eclipse Online #5, February 2013

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Eclipse Online #5, February 2013

“On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V—” by Peter M. Ball
“Sanctuary” by Susan Palwick

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Eclipse Online, the online magazine of Nighshade Books, has a couple of spectacularly good stories for its February issue.

Peter M. Ball‘s “On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V—-” is about a quest by Patrick to be taken away to live with the fey, told by Patrick’s boyfriend, who has indulged him even though he is ambivalent to say the least. The search has led them to the city of V—-, where the fey do come by and invite a handful of people to join them. There twist in the middle isn’t a big surprise, but what makes the story so superb is what the narrator does from that point on. It’s about love and sacrifice and manages to be touching and emotionally rich in a way few stories manage to pull off.

But, as good as it is, it is overshadowed by “Sanctuary.” Susan Palwick‘s story is the best I’ve read in a good long time, with fascinating and complex characters, a truly strange situation, tough choices, redemption, and sacrifice. It’s set in a world after a Rapture-ish event: some people have vanished, and what is left is strange, where people have strange powers, society has fallen apart, and people are just trying to keep things together against the madness. Laszo is a “fixer,” able to fix objects in one form, a talent that comes in handy in a world where objects can change from one to another randomly. He’s part of a small group who has survived in the madness, run by Cyn, a former professional dominatrix who is the moral center of the tale. The group of misfits is threatened when they rescue a Broadcaster, one who can project his thoughts in a comic strip word balloon, and who has pissed off a dangerous mob that is hunting for him. I could go on for a long time listing the wonderful concepts and characterizations that fill the pages of the story, and it truly deserves serious consideration as one of the best of 2013.

These are stories that should be read by anyone who loves great genre fiction.The two stories will stick with you for a long time.