The Sword Review, #9, December 2005

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“No Greater Love” by Wesley Lambert

“Justice” by Susan E. Curnow
“War Child” by Scott M. Sandridge
“All the Horrible Dragons” by Barton Paul Levenson
“A Christmas Collage” by Terry Weide

The December 2005 issue of The Sword Review is full of all types of fiction, several poems, and a couple articles pertaining to poetry and book reviews. The fiction is the heart of the magazine, and after reading through this month’s selection, it beats steady and healthy.

Wesley Lambert’s science fiction space romp, “No Greater Love,” tells the story of Doctor Marcus Castile, recently named Chief Medical Officer on his way to the research facility on Communion, as he struggles with both internal and external problems. The mysteries of the planet’s alien inhabitants have Castile bounding about in search of answers and closure, but will prodding too much bring about disaster?

Aside from some language that seemed out of place for specific characters, I thought this space frontier-esque mystery was a captivating embarkation with a great amount of detail to it. Lambert has a way of lacing light humor into his characters, keeping them fun and interactive. The planet was well-developed, bearing both differences and similarities to Earth, and though the ending could have had a greater impact, there was enough cessation to please me.

“Justice” by Susan E. Curnow allows the reader to watch Sera Ayabara as she pities a recently acquired prisoner’s condition. The only problem is that the prisoner is an “h’atu,” a demon said to devour souls. She offers her assistance and care to the man in hopes of bettering his detainment, but the prisoner’s planned hanging has all the workings of war in it.

The prospect of the fantasy horror setting woven by Curnow is interesting, but my main problem with “Justice” is that nothing really happens. Characters talk, then they whisper; there is some yelling, and then, at the end, more talking. There are hints at further events, but the story feels unfinished, as if it is only the beginning of something larger and grandiose. If that’s not the case, the story does nothing to merit a second read.

Korgash, after saving a young boy from a drunken lard’s beating in Scott M. Sandridge’s “War Child,” finds himself embarking upon a day’s worth of reflection with regard to his past actions. The wars he had been in, the lives he had stolen, the orphans he had made…was it all worth it?

A short entry in the issue, I found the coincidences to be a bit forced in the cramped amount of words. All the right parts of a great fantasy setting are there: the heartfelt murdering warrior, the young boy, the Seer, the talks of the Madness. Unfortunately, I did not feel that the ending of the story, much like “Justice,” was anything but a segue to a continuing story.

With a title like Barton Paul Levenson’s “All the Horrible Dragons”, I was not surprised to find a large slew of humor in this tale of religion and fantastical beasts. The story is about a kingdom overrun by dragons—funny, devilish dragons who constantly remind the people that they can breathe fire—and it is up to Emmy, under the king’s demands, to find out why.

Levenson uses all the tricks and trades of writing humor often found in Terry Pratchett books. His timing is good, the characters quirky enough to have full-fleshed personalities, and the dialogue is spot on. This is a fun adventure story with a surprising, yet heartwarming, ending. I say read it.

While not a true fantasy or science fiction story, Terry Weide’s “A Christmas Collage” is a touching piece that brings together three different homes and their inhabitants, and the influence a group of carolers have on them. It’s a nice holiday treat that lightens the mood, emphasizes all the great things about family and holidays, and reminds me of my favorite wintry tunes. It may seem out of place in a genre magazine, but manages to fit in fine as the concluding piece to the December issue.