The Sword Review, Issue 17, August 2006

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"The World is One" by Calie Voorhis
"Archangels Incorporated" by Gilbert M. Stack

The fiction in the August issue of The Sword Review emphasizes the spiritual, and unicorns make an appearance in two of the four stories.

“Who Ever Heard of a Spotted Unicorn?” by John Kuhn is a creation tale wrapped in the trappings of fantasy. The all-powerful Wizard (God) is lonely, so he creates friends in the form of unicorns to share his world. Inevitably, the unicorns find it hard to stay clean (free from sin), and the tale continues from there. While there is nothing wrong with allegory—it’s a technique that has been employed to great effect in works like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—here the allegory simply isn’t that clever, and the story itself isn’t very gripping. An abbreviated version of “Who Ever Heard of a Spotted Unicorn?” might make a good Sunday school story, but it doesn’t work for anyone who is looking for something interesting and complex.

In “A Place That Never Was – A Story of Childhood” by David R. Downing, no one has a name. The protagonist is simply “the girl,” and other characters are referred to as teacher or father. Despite the Spartan character names, everything in this story is lush, evoking childhood memories. Readers glimpse the world the girl sees, and it recalls a time when they had a world no one else could visit and friends only they could see. This story also examines faith, a person’s ability to believe in something so strongly that it becomes real, whether others share that belief or not. Well worth the read.

In “The World is One” by Calie Voorhis, Dan gets a 200-year-old message from his lost love, Kendra. Dan is part of a rescue mission for Sigma 9892x, the ship and the world Kendra’s last words originated from. As Dan and the rescue mission approach orbit, Dan learns of the wonders of the planet, the discovery of intelligent life upon it, and the reasons behind why the mission went horribly wrong.  Taking as its primary theme people’s inability to see any context beyond the familiar until it’s too late, Kendra’s story is compelling, making “The World is One” an enjoyable read.

I’m not sure how to categorize “Archangels Incorporated” by Gilbert M. Stack. It isn’t a cautionary tale or a morality tale in the traditional sense. The focus isn’t on what the main character, Peter, has done in the past or anything he’s currently doing. Rather, it’s on what Peter will choose to do. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.  There’s no real bite to “Archangels Incorporated”; the potential conflict doesn’t last long enough to make Peter’s other option viable. The identity of his messenger, Nathaniel the archangel, is presented almost at the beginning, and the reason his character should choose a particular path is presented from the start—his daughter Suzie. The presented ideas have the potential to be interesting, but they aren’t fleshed out enough to make a compelling story.