“A Mythic Fear of the Sea” by Jay Lake
“Blood and Verse” by John Meaney
“The Russian Winter” by Holly Wade Matter
“Emerald City Blues” by Steven R. Boyett
“Little House on the Accretion Disc” by Gordon Gross
“Talk of Mandrakes” by Gene Wolfe
“Silver Land” by Lori Ann White
The Hubble telescope picture of the Eagle Nebula on the cover promises you a sense of agelessness, or timelessness, which appears to be the reoccurring theme in issues of Aeon. The first issue starts off with a column by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, one that all artists seeking to go professional should read. I also like that this ebook uses “100% recycled electrons.” Now to the seven little cosmic gems inside:
“A Mythic Fear of the Sea” by Jay Lake is a coming-of-age story set in what could possibly be described as a future post-technological Dark Age. Ozzie, on his twelfth birthday, is taken by Daddy to meet “Grandaddy.” After reviewing some of Lake’s other stories, I’ve learned to never try to figure out ahead of time what’s going on, and to simply trust that he’ll let you know when you need to. In this story I once again find that trust rewarded. His description of the landscape in the form of “Granddaddy’s” body and clothing is but some of the ways he allows you to peer into the religious/social mindset of Ozzie and the other townsfolk. The plot is well-constructed and leads to a logical conclusion.
“Blood and Verse” by John Meaney hooks you at the start with a 5-line verse. Andrei v’Danshin KaDonnel is a Blood Poet, a poet/assassin who turns death into a beautiful verse. His first commissioned work is to assassinate Queen Rhiannon of Quinvère. Only two things stand in his way: a mysterious “magician” and Shera, an officer of the Royal Guard who he’s in love with. I often dislike stories written in present tense or which “wax poetic,” but this is one of those rare instances in which such styles actually work for the story. And the poetic form only shows where it’s needed. Meaney details an alien world surrounded by two rings of tiny artificial suns, where rainfall has been constant for ten thousand years. You can tell he put much thought into the physics behind this world and its inhabitant’s technology (for science buffs, think Type I civilization living on a planet formerly inhabited by a Type II civilization). This story has everything SF and Fantasy enthusiasts love, including a whopper of an ending. It tends to get pretty cerebral at parts, so readers who prefer straight action/adventure “space operas” might find some of it a little dull. But for hopeless romantics, it’s to die for (no pun intended, of course).
“The Russian Winter” by Holly Wade Matter gives you a day in the life of two gods, Auburn and Balboa, in modern times. Auburn is a serious, hard-working artist while Balboa is a mean-spirited lazy slob. Then enter the poor hapless mortals who end up caught between the two gods’ lovers quarrel. This time-twisting tale left me confused, wondering what the whole point of it was. It reminded me of the movie, Groundhog Day, but without the humor. There is an emotional essence to it, leaving you feeling sorry for Bobbi and her family. The whole “lather-rinse-repeat” effect may have been necessary for the plot, but I think it was overdone. It could be the story has some sort of meaning to it, and I just couldn’t see it. So give the story a try. Maybe you’ll get something I didn’t.
“Lieutenant Rhino loves his F-18” is how “Emerald City Blues” by Stephen R. Boyett begins. Boyett takes you back to Oz where the inhabitants await the return of Dorothy. But it’s not the Oz you remember. This zany satire is full of humor while also acting as an allegory to the negative effects of Pop Culture (his description of the Once-Cowardly Lion made me laugh so hard I almost fell out of my seat). On top of that, it also leaves a sobering message about the futility of nuclear warfare. While reading this story, you’ll start off laughing but end up numb.
Sirtot and Utit watches the death of the universe as it’s pulled into a singularity in “Little House on the Accretion Disk” by Gordon Gross. Utit leaves to find out where the universe has gone, leaving Sirtot alone to contemplate whether or not he should join her. It’s a cosmic love story that gives a mythic take on the physics of the universe. The story reminded me of the opening chapter of Tolkien’s Silmarillion except in reverse. Creative and visually imaginative, this one will stay in your head for a while.
In “Talk of Mandrakes” by Gene Wolfe, Earth has become a polluted wasteland where the people are ruled by a Totalitarian State. Deep space expeditions have discovered life on other planets. John Michael Peak, Ph. D. meets with xbiologist Doctor Selim, knowing that such a meeting will make his career. Selim introduces a plant-like alien species with mandrake-like qualities that he refers to as a dryad. The story keeps your interest, giving all the descriptions and explanations you need without any of it getting in the way. Then Wolfe smacks you upside the head with a plot twist that happens so fast you don’t see it coming, yet leaves a logical outcome. Wolfe stirs biology, extraterrestrials, ecology, politics, gender, and sex into a stew destined to make you want to read more.
“Silver Land” by Lori Ann White takes you to the Old West. Jeb Stearns, a Civil War vet haunted by the ghosts of his past, has lost his wife, Hannah. After burying her, he wakes up to find a strange woman, caked in dirt, sleeping in his camp. He discovers that she has amnesia and seeks the “Silver Land,” the name only Hannah called the fields along the Owyhee River. The strange woman’s identity gets revealed little by little as the story progresses, slowly reaching a crescendo that quickens in pace, then surprises you in a fitting way. She captures the essence of the West well with her descriptions. White’s story about death and letting go touches you and holds on.