Beneath Ceaseless Skies #289, October 24, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #289, October 24, 2019

“The Star Plague” by Rich Larson

“The Butcher, the Baker” by Mike Allen

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The first story in this issue may remind readers of famous horror movies, and the second brings to mind a familiar fairy tale.

In “The Star Plague” by Rich Larson, a Viking is exiled by his people, for a reason revealed late in the story. In England, he is nearly killed and temporarily blinded by a meteor that crashes to Earth. Healed by monks, he is again cast out, but returns to fight a monster that possesses the body of a monk and transforms its victims into killer zombies.

Inevitably, the plot of this violent tale brings back memories of films like Alien and Night of the Living Dead. The historic setting is convincing, and the bloody battles are vivid, but there is little new to those familiar with such movies.

The main character in “The Butcher, the Baker” by Mike Allen is brought to life by a baker who forms him out of dough. His first job is to kill the baker’s husband. Whenever he slays someone at her command, any wounds he receives heal instantly, without pain. However, when he kills a man on his own, he experiences piercing cold agony in the part of his body where he should have a heart. He goes off on his own, only to return to face a new rival.

The story reads like a dark version of the well-known tale of the Gingerbread Man; in fact, those very words appear at one point. The author creates interesting characters, but their motives are not always clear or believable. We never learn why the baker wanted her husband dead, for one thing. For another, the protagonist slays a man for insulting the baker’s tarts, which seems like an extreme overreaction.

Victoria Silverwolf likes gingerbread.