“A Prince of Thirteen Days” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (reprint)
“The Immortality Game” by Cat Rambo
“Virgin of the Sands” by Holly Phillips (reprint)
“You Have Been Turned Into a Zombie By a Friend” by Jeremiah Tolbert
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple
Almost everyone was in some group, some clique, some gang, back in high school. Those personal experiences serve as the backdrop to this story where being in a certain group in high school may or may not be a good thing.
Glen wasn’t sure what he was going to do once he graduated Catholic high school back in the day. There wasn’t anything beyond D&D that interested him except chasing pretty girls. Casey Lucas is his current target and way out of his league.
The beautiful Casey is graceful, poised, and very smart with plans to be a journalist after she gets her college degree. She is in some sort of band along with several other classmates. One day the beautiful blond invites Glen over to her house to hear them play. He accepts and before long is in the loft of her parents’ house along with several of his classmates.
Also present is the incense, the alcohol, the marijuana, and more than anything else, the music. Music that moves him deeply and bridges the gap between the past, the present and the future in ways he does not understand. It may be November 1980 but the talented band is not just playing the current or classic music.
After that one brief afternoon, Casey is once again distant while life keeps relentlessly moving them forward. They graduate and move on their various adult pathways and slowly lose touch with each other. The band becomes a thing of the past, all but forgotten. A chance meeting allows Glen to reconnect with the former band members as well as finally solve “The Immortality Game” by Cat Rambo.
High School is also the setting for the adventure tale, “You Have Been Turned Into a Zombie By a Friend” by Jeremiah Tolbert. Philosophy and deep issues are not nearly as present in this story, where being a net-mage is not a good thing. If being in high school wasn’t bad enough, the clock on your worn out 1992 Toyota Tercel has 9:06 AM on it so you are late. You also suffer from bad dreams. Part of that is because you know that not only are cops bad news; one of them could be an agent of the Magical Association of Atlantis. They are your worst enemies and the enforcers of the barrier between the magical and the mundane. So, you don’t want to do anything that might get you a ticket. The parking lot is full at the school once you finally get there, on this already very strange morning, so you have to use your mojo, just a little, to open up a spot.
Your day is about to get much worse in this story where you, Dakota, are the hero. Social networking is dangerous and saying yes to an invite can get you not just infected but ultimately dead. You don’t want to be the hero but everyone you know is looking to you to do something to save the day. That is, those that still aren’t zombiefied. The bad news is you are expected to be a leader. The good news is those that have not been claimed seem to be shrinking in number. It is just going to be one of those days.
Like the other original story in this issue, the dark world of universal suffering known as high school serves as a backdrop. Instead of the core deep-meaning-philosophical questions in “The Immortality Game” here we get more of a straight forward action adventure tale with science fiction as well as fantasy components. That along with the occasional tongue in cheek or snarky comment makes this story a fun and occasionally laugh out loud read from start to finish.
Again, this month both the reprints and original stories vary widely. While they may share a setting or two in common, the approaches taken are very different. The same is true of the magazine itself, where an obvious cookie-cutter style in editor perspective is not present. Variety in all aspects is the key here, along with very interesting author interviews that shed light on the stories and their authors. This is another issue with solidly good fiction containing characters that linger in the mind long after the issue is finished.