Paradox, #5, Summer 2004

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"The Wailing on the Water" by Paul Finch
"Servant of Iblis" by Howard Andrew Jones
"Restoration" by David J. Sakmyster
"The Moon Shone on My Slumbers" by C. Mitchell O'Neal
"1923" by C. Kevin Barrett
"Cleopatra's Needle" by Karen L. Kobylarz
"The Ill-Fated Crusade" by Charles Coleman Finlay

ImageIn "The Wailing on the Water," Paul Finch recreates the Battle of Cullodenwhich effectively ended the Second Jacobite Rebellion. For such a short story, Finch dwells overly long on the actual battle in which his protagonist, Morgan, a young Scot participating in his first battle, isn't even shown. In the end, Finch reconnects with Morgan and looks at Morgan's beliefs and how they differ from reality.

"Servant of Iblis" is an Arabian Sherlock Holmes style story by Howard Andrew Jones. As with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries, Jones tells the story from the point of view of the detective's sidekick, in this case the bodyguard Asim. The detective, Dabir manages to solve the presented problem without actually revealing the clues to Asim, much as Holmes solved his problems.

In a future in which humans are immortal, David J. Sakmyster gives himself plenty of time to play with in "Restoration." The story opens with a confrontation between the immortal Martin Templane and the mortal Rajib Manijupabra, who believes that upon his death he'll be reincarnated and help recreate a society of mortal humans. Sakmyster's characters, and their views as the story progresses, seem to be unable to mix rationality and emotion, they either espouse the one or the other. Furthermore, the dialogue throughout the piece, which runs from 2289 through 11923, generally is stilted and has a distancing quality to it.

"The Moon Shone on My Slumbers" by C. Mitchell O'Neal is a story of invention in the nineteenth century with echoes of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Joseph Adams is working on a modification to Edison's phonograph when he gets caught up in the supernatural. Unfortuantely, while the story has some intriguing hooks, the sense of atmosphere, which is all important in this type of fiction, seems contrived and never really manages to grab the reader.

C. Kevin Barrett presents an interesting twist on the clichéd idea of time-traveling assassins attempting to kill Adolf Hitler in "1923." While the general idea behind the story is good, Barnett's conclusion is a little obvious. Had the author extended the story and focused more on the assassins' psychological impact, it would have made for a much more intriguing story.

Despite the title, "Cleopatra's Needle," Karen L. Kobylarz's story is not about the famous queen, but rather about her daughter, Selene, Queen of Mauretania (40 BCE to 5). Kobylarz's story is a little disjointed at first until the reader realizes how much of the action takes place at the moment and how much of it is Selene realizing what things in her past meant. As Kobylarz successfully weaves her disparate events together, the reader sees the skill behind the story.

In some ways "The Ill-Fated Crusade" appears to be Charles Coleman Finlay's tribute to the late Poul Anderson. The story of two crusaders running across a flying saucer is certainly reminiscent of Sir Roger and The High Crusade. Finlay's crusaders, Simon and Sir Gilbert, approach the alien artifact with the belief that it is crewed by supernatural beings, either angels or fallen angels, and maintain their faith in dealing with them, which provides an interesting and intelligent take on Anderson's story.