The Sword Review, Issue 11, February 2006

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“The Engines of Peace” by Douglas Kolacki

“The Stains of the Past” by J. Kathleen Cheney
“Hiroshima” by David Wright
“Rest Area” by Tim Baer
“First Son” by Matthew Wuertz
February was a tough month for The Sword Review. Their website joined the ranks of those affected by the Jyllands-Posten Mahammad cartoon controversy, attacked by hackers offended by depictions of the prophet in the Danish newspaper. Fortunately, no content was permanently damaged or lost. 

Issue #11 has a time travelling theme with several great stories.

“The Engines of Peace” by Douglas Kolacki might be the most prominent story showcasing the Christian values The Sword Review supports. It is 1905, and an entity claiming to be Jesus is bestowing scientific inventions of futuristic magnitude to the town of Refuge, Ohio. The mayor’s brother, Alex, must save the citizens of Refuge when this entity promises to take everyone to its kingdom. His skepticism leads him to accept the help of the Society of Progress. But is this entity really Jesus?

Unfortunately, the story seems to be unsure of whether to focus on the religion or the science fiction aspect. Time traveling details are left to the imagination. The character development, mainly for Alex, is done well, but I still felt that “The Engines of Peace” moved too slow, chugging along with background information and hazy flashbacks. The action picked up later when machines resembling the alien transports from The War of the Worlds show up, but the ending left several issues unanswered.

Love is the focus in J. Kathleen Cheney’s “The Stains of the Past,” and unlike many other romantic fantasy-esque tales of heartache and woe, it is portrayed in a wonderful tone that is neither preachy nor overbearing. Revisarian, a woman with the power to see a person’s true heart by touching them, has endured a harsh life that she’d rather forget. She seeks redemption, and when she meets the handsome, soft-spoken Kiyaden Sidreiyan, a man with similar talents, her heart is filled with hope. But what will be the cost of redemption? “The Stains of the Past” is powerful and told with captivating prose. Taking place in a world laden with strife and depression, I cheered Revisarian’s journey all the way through.

In David Wright’s “Hiroshima,” missionaries travel back in time to those who never had a chance for redemption because of suppressing governments or horrible disasters. As the title implies, the story focuses on the events of 1945. Sister Sei Horikawa has lost many friends and loved ones during her missions, but this time, she is looking to make things right. Wright gives us a quick glimpse into a world where much more could be examined. I enjoyed “Hiroshima” for its inventiveness and morbidly honest voice. More from this idea would be welcomed.

“Aleskei’s Revolution” by Wade Ogletree is the third time-traveling story in this issue. While a standard component of science fiction, unless it’s really turned on its head, it can only come off as clichéd and overdone. Luckily, this is not the case with Ogletree’s tale. The CEO of Concupi Science, Inc., Aleskei Volchenkov, is a frail and sickly old man. Using his company’s time machine, he wishes to relive an affair from long ago. But Aleskei’s greedy desires put stress on both his health and his relationship with his wife, and might be the end of him.

Aleskei is an interesting character, having both virtues and flaws. Traveling back with him made for strong reading, and although the story is fairly linear, I enjoyed it. For hard SF addicts, “Aleskei’s Revolution” offers some puffs of science, but it is aimed at a layman readership. One thing that bothered me was that the story seems to be broken into three parts. But how can there be sections labeled “Part Two: Rebel” and “Part Three: Revolution” without there being a label for Part One?

To explain too much about Tim Baer’s “Rest Area” would ruin the experience. The writing is quick, and the humor natural. Where it is short on plot, “Rest Area” makes up with lavish details and well-placed quips. Science fiction at its lightest; Douglas Adams would be proud.

Matthew Wuertz’s “First Son” is the first of a three-part serial.