Beneath Ceaseless Skies #169, March 19, 2015

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #168, March 19, 2015

“Sun, Stone, Spear” by Carrie Vaughn
“The Sixth Day” by Sylvia Anna Hivén

Reviewed by Clancy Weeks

We’re walking, we’re walking, we’re walking… Not exactly a “hero’s journey,” and though it drags a bit, “Sun, Stone, Spear” by Carrie Vaughn is a well-written tale of two young women—Mahra and Elu—as they leave their small village to find their own way in the world. The pessimist and eternal optimist. One with eyes rooted in reality, while the other has her eyes ever on the stars. They are complimentary characters, each unable to survive the journey without the other. As an allegory for youth’s transition to adulthood, it works quite well. As an adventure tale (which I doubt it really is) maybe not so much, as their one dangerous encounter is mildly anticlimactic, and their only meeting with a magical creature is less than helpful. Still, nicely told.

Is the future written in stone, with no ability to veer left or right? Jo finds the answer one day when Cassie, her sister and time traveller, tells her of a coming decision that will have profound consequences for her family and their battle to survive “the Stretch.” In “The Sixth Day” by Sylvia Anna Hivén, Jo raises the corn while her sister sees the future. Six days in the future, to be exact, helping the family and the friends they have left avoid dangers and the disappearance of everything into the Stretch. In six days, though, strangers will visit them from that place, and one of the girls will have to make a decision. Does the decision change the future or fulfill it? Who knows, but Ms. Hivén weaves a nice tale full of rich characters and well-defined conflict. Wonderfully self-contained, it needs no back-story or further exploration. How often does that happen? Good stuff.

Clancy Weeks is a composer by training, with over two-dozen published works for wind ensemble and orchestra—his most recent is Blue Ice, Warm Seas for wind ensemble—and an author only in his fevered imagination. Having read SF/F for nearly fifty years, he figured “What the hell, I can do that,” and has set out to prove that, well… maybe not so much, and has a long string of rejections as evidence. He currently resides in Texas, but don’t hold that against him.