Beneath Ceaseless Skies #148, May 29, 2014
Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
“The Use and the Need” by M. Bennardo is a steampunk comedy set in America around the time of Prohibition, which has not yet passed into law in this alternate history. Tom Brown, saloon barkeep, dreads the frequent condemnation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union band, mostly because of the volume of its early morning arrival and their insistence on driving a hatchet into Tom’s bar. This time the Sisters have brought a Hatchetation Engine to make their destructive demonstration more memorable, and only in that sense is the machine a success. The story draws a parallel between the out-of-control Hatchetation Engine and the effects that Tom’s liquor has on the locals in this simple tale of unintended consequences.
In “Celestial Venom” by Garnett Elliot, Senjam Singh is on a mission to covertly obtain venom from the Gopti Serpent, a five-headed snake that calls to mind the mythological Hindu snake, Shesha. When Singh comes up against another agent from an opposing secret society, he questions not only whether he can obtain the venom, but whether or not he and his masters are worthy of such god-like power. Garnett Elliot skillfully laces Hindu terms, tea making, strict social stratification, and other references that indicate a location in India and an era long gone. This story focuses on Singh’s epiphany through his experience of the supernatural, of something bigger than himself, seen only beyond the veil of our everyday world.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.