Cities of Dust, Planes of Light, ed. by Todd Sanders

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Cities of Dust, Planes of Light


edited by

Todd Sanders


(Air and Nothingness Press, January 2019, pb, 108 pp.)


“Lot 814: A Series of Letters – Dated Before the Lunar Defection, Recently Discovered Amongst the Possessions of the Late Princess Alicia III” by Jamie Lackey
“This Is Not Mars” by Sarah Daly
“A Hand Extended” by Cat Rambo
“The Outposts” by Samantha L. Barrett
“The World’s More Full of Weeping” by Diane Morrison

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Five female authors offer new stories mixing space exploration with magic in this slender, limited edition volume.

“Lot 814: A Series of Letters – Dated Before the Lunar Defection, Recently Discovered Amongst the Possessions of the Late Princess Alicia III” by Jamie Lackey, as its title implies, is an epistolary tale. In what seems to be a fantasy version of the Victorian Age, a group of women uses magic to travel to the Moon. Their intent is to form a utopian society, free from the problems of Earth. They are able to create a breathable atmosphere with magic, but obtaining water and food prove to be more difficult. The author of the letters discovers how magic works differently on the Moon, and learns something about her past.

Although the premise is whimsical, the author makes a serious point about how good intentions can lead to suffering and oppression. The arbitrary way in which magic operates in this universe weakens the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

The narrator of “This Is Not Mars” by Sarah Daly is the only human being on the red planet. Her assignment is to determine if colonists can live there. A supply ship carrying the items she needs to survive fails to arrive. She expects to die alone, but help arrives from an unexpected source.

This story is imaginative, but the resolution of the narrator’s crisis is pure wish fulfillment. Her rescuers come from a society so perfect that they are difficult to accept as real characters.

The protagonist of “A Hand Extended” by Cat Rambo endures a series of dangerous tests in order to join the military forces of a mysterious organization. The setting is deep space in the far future, with many different kinds of aliens present, but the organization is more mystical than scientific. The main character’s ordeal teaches her a lesson about trust.

The author creates an interesting background, and a character with a strong motivation for risking her life. The fantasy aspects of the story are not necessary to the plot, and add little to what is mostly space opera adventure.

In “The Outposts” by Samantha L. Barrett, a woman visits several trading posts on an alien planet, in search of an item of great power. The exact nature of the magical object remains a mystery. Flashbacks offer a partial explanation for her quest. This story ends very suddenly, with many of the reader’s questions left unanswered.

A widow and her young daughter are the protagonists of “The World’s More Full of Weeping” by Diane Morrison. The mother researches plant life on an alien world. It closely resembles Earth foliage, to such a high degree that no logical explanation is possible. Meanwhile, the daughter claims to befriend a pixie.

It comes as no surprise that the girl’s imaginary friend proves to be real. This is an emotional story, which verges on sentimentality. Young adults are likely to enjoy it more than older readers.

Victoria Silverwolf has another new cat at home.