Readers shouldn't be alarmed by the paucity of zines reviewed here this month. All the available evidence suggests that no new magazines have ceased publication. It's only that many of them aren't making their way to me for review.
- Analog, October 2009
- Interzone 223, July/August 2009
- Strange Horizons, July 2009 (online)
- Fantasy Magazine, July 2009 (online)
- Clarkesworld 34, July 2009 (online)
- Talebones #38, Summer 2009
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies, July 2009 (online)
- Apex Magazine, July 2009 (online)
- Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 1 (online)
Analog, Oct '09
Analog, October, 2009
A novella and several shorter stories. I had more hopes for the novella than it delivered, alas.
Where the Winds are All Asleep by Michael F. Flynn
Jeanne Price is a scientist whose academic interest is in the problem of monogenesis–
I was initially enthusiastic about finding a novella by Michael Flynn headlining this issue, because Flynn knows how to give good story. Unfortunately, this is not quite in evidence here. The events are narrated by Price inside a hokey tavern frame that provides the author an excuse for extended infodumpfery and bad jokes, nor do the lectures cease once we are down in the caverns."It's quite simple, Bryant… Complex proto-organic molecules can be catalyzed by the surface properties of silicates. You should know this, McConnell. The surface grooves can entrap these carbon polymers, protecting them from UV or wave action that might otherwise disrupt them; and they will be 'carried along for the ride' as the crystals grow and fracture. At some point, exaptation occurs and the organic molecules begin to grow and replicate on their own."It is admirable that the author has worked out his biochemistry so thoroughly, but not that he feels the need to explain it in such detail that it impedes the storyness of his narrative. I find myself in sympathy with the members of the academic conference who expressed their disbelief in the expedition's discoveries. The tube worms were wonder quite sufficient; the Balrog takes things well beyond the point of credibility, and the concluding scene meant to evoke horror falls flat.
Shallow Copy by Jesse L. Watson
Will and Max are teenagers. Will is the genius. He has just invented a program for a true AI, despite the common knowledge that this is not possible, but he has held back, for ethical reasons, from giving it self-awareness. Max talks him into it. The results are not happy. Will and Max talk about this a lot.
The problem with this one is Will's assumption: "Self-awareness is identity. Identity is history. Can't download that off the web. Parents. Childhood. Connections. Memories. Not simple at all." Persons, true persons, are not given their identity in a lump of data; true persons create their own identity bit by bit from the beginning, from the tabula rasa.
The problem is not that the copy was shallow, but that it was a copy at all.
An Idea Whose Time Had Come by Robert Grossbach
The year being 2115, everything is screwed up in the US, so the narrator comes up with the obvious solution, an AI for president. AIs, after all, are already running lots of other states. And it comes with the obvious problem.
A really, really, really old joke.
Cold Words by Juliette Wade
Aliens. The Aurrel are divided into clans, and Cold dominates Warm; tundra-bred thick-furred hunters dominate sparse-pelted Lowlanders. The Lowlander Rulii has risen high in Majesty's Cold Council and means to use the proposed human spaceport to raise the Lowlands in power. But the human representative, Parker, is scorned by Majesty because he only speaks in Warm words. Now a new negotiator has come to take over, but Rulii senses something wrong about her, even though her Cold words sound perfect. If Majesty rejects her, all his plans are ruined."Honored Hada," I say, "the other Councilors are heavy-furred. As dominators they already control all tribute, and they will not nose your bait of silver or engines. But for my Lowland people who now have nothing? Despised for Shiverers, our goods and animals taken without recompense? Your spaceport is a promise such as I have never seen! How should I not give my last breath for your success?"
This is an effective portrayal of the alien from several different points of view–
The Hanged Man by William Gleason
SF horror. The narrator is haunted by nightmares of his partner's death at the claws of a vicious alien species, after the pair foolishly thought technology would protect them.Now, though, almost all I can remember of him are his panicked eyes, his silently pleading mouth. At night the image of his face returns, etched in terror, and at times even in the full light of day that relentless mask of desperation haunts me, mocking me from within the mindless swirls of a wallpaper design or in the idle sweep of a length of carpet. That final instant is frozen in my mind, as the realization of his fate consumes him, unmans him, the instant before I turn away.
This one is pure horror, up there on the scale of ghastly, and retribution well-deserved. The opening scene, however, is unfortunately so misleading as to be a cheat.
Teddy Bear Toys by Carl Frederick
From the age of fourteen, Niel has been involved in Professor Kendrick's project–
In the Autumn of the Empire by Jerry Oltion
When the emperor will change the Earth's orbit rather than admit he was wrong. Shaggy. Very.
Interzone #223, July/August 2009
A special Dominic Green issue. I don't seem to be familiar with Green's work, but from this selection it appears to be pessimistic, misanthropic stuff. Two of the three pieces here share the same universe, in which an alien species call the Proprietors at one time bought surplus humans as slaves until someone invented a cheaper labor source. The now-useless humans were cast away on planets that no one else would want–
By Dominic Green
Old Krishna is the only human inhabitant of his world, except for the entity he calls his granddaughter. At first, it seems that she is abducted by a passing slaver ship and Old Krishna follows to rescue her, but we eventually learn that Things Are Not What They Seem.
The devil, it is said, can assume a pleasing shape, and so can a weapon of planetary annihilation. It may be necessary to destroy the planet in order to save other planets; sentiment struggles against deadly necessity. At one point, Old Krishna resolves a logical impasse between two AIs, which impresses the ship's crew greatly–
Coat of Many Colours
In starving Brazil, the geneticists at the Ugly Farm had been trying to create a new food creature out of dinosaur DNA, but Experiment 2308 proves to have unexpected qualities that might be more valuable even than food. Unfortunately, Experiment 2308 has also shown signs of intelligence, so the authorities have brought in Doctor Liz Mullen to disprove this–
This is a piece with a Message, but I found it hard not to applaud Mullen's tactics, regardless. Some [older] readers may be reminded of the Nim Chimpsky affair.
The narrator has been duped into a scheme for extracting gold on a planet called Midas, where heavy metals are so common that the indigenous species metabolize gold and store it as fat–
The author has clearly enjoyed creating Midas and its fascinatingly complex biochemistry, including the clever discovery that may pay the narrator's way off Midas. But the murderous atmosphere of the place makes it hard for a reader to share any of this enjoyment. One of the most depressingly misanthropic visions I can recall encountering in SF, this is no setting for fun.
The Transmigration of Aishwarya Desai by Eric Gregory
Desai has come to the wealthy colony of Ganesha for an academic debate on the status of the alien creatures on the world Yama; her opponent has suggested that she is a kook because she claims that much of her information has come from the Yama via psychic immersion. In consequence, Desai finds herself under stress; other consequences follow.
Several of the characters in this piece inquire at various time whether Desai is in her right mind. The problem is, we never see her in her right mind, to be able to tell. We see her spacelagged, exhausted, stressed, drugged, dreaming, hallucinating, but never fully composed and rational. How much time had passed? I don't know. Did I pass out? I don't know. Yuen Xi was gone and my feet soaked the carpet. And this is while things are still normal.
Silence & Roses by Suzanne Palmer
The rich people who left Earth to avoid the wars have now returned to the ruined planet and established a sanctuary for themselves, where each resident has a personal robotic servitor/companion. The companions are not overly concerned at first when their charges, one by one, fall into silence. They only learn the true nature of the malady when a fugitive girl climbs the garden wall and informs them that all the residents are actually dead. This knowledge proves traumatic to the caretakers. Button-4-Circle-Peach declares, "I do not know who I am without this place." But a means of renewal is at hand.
Reading this story, I experienced a calming sensation that I recognized as the absence, for the first time while reviewing this issue, of the disorienting sense of not knowing just what the hell was going on. This narrative is straightforward and humane, and I found the robots rather charming, as when Button pauses to rescue a tendril of vine in danger of growing across the garden path where it might be trampled.
Strange Horizons, July, 2009
River of Heaven by Rachel Manija Brown
Heaven was shattered during the war,, and now the homeless angels are searching Earth for the shards, from which they hope to rebuild Heaven again. But the angel temporarily known as Seiji is more interested in the mundane delights to be found in the streets of Japan. His companion Riko disapproves. "You think Heaven was destroyed, and we were all scattered with no guidance or purpose except what we made for ourselves—
Much of the short text is given over to descriptions of Japanese confectionary and the names given to the candy designs, which I gather are items available there today. The notion of homeless angels roaming the Earth is a cool one, though nothing is said here about The Boss, or why the angels in their mortal flesh are able to read the minds of those they touch.
On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War-Machines of the Merfolk by Peter M. Ball
The narrator is dallying in a hotel room with a girl he met on the Internet, when the news of the attack comes on TV. The narrator is slightly concerned about his sister, who was traveling in Denmark at the time, but it seems that she survives with minor injuries. The attack causes limited damage, as the mer-machines are poorly designed. Afterwards, everything is different, but not very.It emerges that no-one knows why the attack took place. The merfolk's statement on the matter is a collection of high-pitched whale songs that remain difficult to decipher, so people develop their own theories to make sense of the destruction. My favourite suggests that perhaps, in retrospect, the statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbour may have been something of a mistake; that the merfolk may have taken it for some kind of taunt.
I think I would call this one mundane surrealism. For the narrator, the immediate experience of a casual love affair is more real and important than more momentous events experienced through the remote media, even when they involve his own relatives.
Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs by Leonard Richardson
It seems that the dinosaurs have been living on Mars. Now they are back for the Monster Truck Rally. Things don't always work out as well as they might, as humans keep thinking up new schemes to exploit the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs don't always behave as well as they might, either."Do you ever think? We're in the shit now. You literally killed a guy and ate him. You've confirmed the worst dinosaur stereotype imaginable. There will be riots in the streets."
The Ghost of Onions by Marcie Lynn Tentchoff
A housewife trapped in banality has a "sideways self" who is a champion of the fairies against dragons and dark mages, but these adventures always happen out of time and leave no conscious traces in her memory. Yet other faint traces do remain.
I wonder if the heroine will find herself paying for neurological scans to uncover the cause of her recurring fugue states. I wonder how the transition back to housewife manages to heal any wounds she incurs and banish the muscle aches from wielding the heavy sword without constant practice. The fairies are said to be cruel, and here is an example of how they exploit humanity, storing their heroes in the stasis closet of banality, to take out when needed, like a can of dragon spray. This vignette could well have been a horror story, but instead the author focuses on the almost-vanished memory.
Bespoke by Genevieve Valentine
Petra is a tailor working for a shop that outfits time travelers - Chronomode: Bespoke Clothing of the Past. Her boss, Simone, is an obsessive perfectionist; everything must be authentic and hand-sewn, but her clients can afford it. A moment later Simone slammed a hand on her desk. "Dammit, look at this. The hair ornament I need is a reproduction. Because naturally a reproduction is indistinguishable from an original. The people of 1743 Kyoto will never notice. Are they hiring antiques dealers out of primary school these days?" And in the background the consequences of time violations accumulate.
This piece is a critique of extreme disparity of wealth and privilege, the sort of wealth that thinks the rules don't apply to it. The clients mirror their counterparts of the past: the Roman slave owners, the Victorian magnates, the daimyo class of feudal Japan. Simone and Petra participate vicariously by association, and the author skillfully seduces the reader, as well, into appreciating the sort of luxury that can only exist when the privileged command the services of the skilled, disregarding the cost, which is apparent all around them.
Fantasy Magazine, July 2009
Lake Tahoe's Lover by Nadia Bulkin
Everyone is surprised when the lake makes the choice of Els to be his wife. Els is more of the dusty desert type, and besides, she loves unfaithful, human Sam. The lake was a healthy, preening, fluid and majestic blue, and they thought for sure he would not want something like her. But of all the cousins in the Family of Spouses, the lake chose Els. The lake drowns Sam to prove his devotion to her, and Els runs away to hide from him. But the lake is determined find her and rises out of his bed in a cloud.
A love story.
Trench Foot by Catherine J. Gardner
Amelia lives in the halfway house for crazy people run by her mother, who threatens to call the psychiatrist if Amelia admits that she sees the ghosts and fairies who swarm around the place. Amelia is forced to reconsider her initial uncritical preference for the fairies.She followed the broken path that ran around the house and stared at the Greenhouse. All the plants inside were dead like her father. A card fluttered from a crack in a windowpane. Amelia pulled it out.
The Battle of the Glass House: to commence Midnight, Sunday October 26th. Combatants: The Robot Swarm vs. the Fairies or The Fairies vs The Robot Swarm, depending on the victor.
The Water Tower by John Mantooth
Jeremy and Heather go through the woods to check out the rumor that there is a dead alien in the old water tower, but they what they find is more than they were prepared to learn about the sordid world of adults.The clouds around the moon dissolved. Moonlight played over the water, making the smallest ripples shine like silk. It was there, bathed in moonshine, near Heather's feet. It had been there all along; she'd probably brushed against it without even knowing, unaware of the deadness against her legs.
A coming of age story, very much reminiscent of King's "The Body," and, like it, not a fantasy.
The Integrity of the Chain by Lavie Tidhar
Noy drives a solar-powered tuk-tuk in a future Laos, but what he wants is to go to space, to the moon, like the falangs do. He has a friend, an old man who is making a backyard spaceship; they share a dream. Late one night, Noy picks up a strange passenger who gives him advice as if he knows who Noy is.It was a strange journey for Noy. Though the figure never moved, it seemed to still, somehow, reach across to him, as if its loose wires were somehow trailing through the air to reach him; above his head the moon shone white and clear, exposing one side of its face for scrutiny.
Although some readers may sense a connection to other possibly related stories, to Noy his black-robed passenger is entirely mysterious and inexplicable–
Clarkesworld #34, July 2009
Two very different, vividly-imagined settings.
Placa del Fuego by Tobias Bucknell
Aliens have come to Earth, and now there are wormholes anchored in the ocean around the island that lead to other worlds. But the consequences for the island have not been kind; a sort of acid rain falls regularly, destroying organic matter and advanced machinery alike. Here Tiago makes a living as a pickpocket, working for the local crime boss, when he picks the wrong pocket and becomes too much involved in a deadly interstellar intrigue.
An exotic, SFnal setting: The ship began to pick its way out of the harbor, headed between the tall forest of wind turbines at the harbor's edge: a dangerous move to unleash a windfoil in the harbor, but suddenly Tiago noticed other ships unfurling sails in haste. A cloud of brightly colored parafoils leapt to the harbor sky like butterflies swarming from a shaken limb. There is a great deal of action and skiffy stuff, including an alien that seems to have a black hole in its maw. It is clear that this is just a small incident in some very extensive and fascinating history, which perhaps is told elsewhere. In the midst of it all, Tiago is a rather typical urchin protagonist through whose mundane eyes we see the alien wonders.
The text, alas, has a serious case of Spellchecker Disease. It is also a longer story than one might expect from the editorial declaration that this ezine has a "firm" word limit of 4000 words and will not consider longer works; in fact, I believe it edges over the line into the novelette category.
In the Lot and in the Air by Lisa Hannett
A carnival scene. In a variation on the old shooting gallery, a crow is the target, perched at the top of a revolving orrery as the pitchman works the crowds below. But one of the marks has a scheme of his own.Dressed in a chrome yellow top hat and matching damask suit, the fox was a dapper fellow, every inch a gentleman. The spiked wheels of his wicker invalid's chair sought purchase on the midway's greasy cobblestones; they skidded nauseatingly, and moved forward at an inchworm's pace.
This one seems at first to be mostly setting, fantastic with a flavor of gears and steam. The prose is dense with excess adjectives, like a plum-heavy fruitcake, but the prize at the center, disguised in garish new clothing, is a very old fable.
Talebones #38, Summer, 2009
Apparently the penultimate issue of this long-running small printzine. The cover has a SFnal look, but the large number of very short stories are mostly dark fantasy.
Ginger Stuyvesant and the Case of the Haunted Nursery by Mary Robinette Kowal
Ghost story in 1920s setting. A medium is summoned by a friend whose young son seems to be communing with an invisible nanny, and it is impossible to light a fire in the nursery. Ginger has no trouble discovering that a ghost is involved, but her friend's husband is hostile to the possibility of the supernatural; his patriarchal authority is more menacing than the ghost.
This one depends on the premise that a ghost would be unable to recognize a given individual after many years, which I find difficulty accepting.
Swoop by Patricia Russo
A group of spirits–
The Only Wish Ever to Come True by Scott Edelman
From the beginning, all I ever wanted to do was help people. But the wishes have always gone wrong, from the beginning, back in the Garden.
A look at the oldest story from a different perspective. I think it's kind of hard on other people, to suffer, like Job's relatives, so the narrator can learn his lesson.
The Best Last Choice I Ever Made by Caroline M. Yoachim
There are too many breakfast cereals for the narrator to choice, so she builds a machine to make the choices for her. The humor in this one falls pretty flat.
Bird of Paradise by Ari Goelman
At the onset of WWII, Tzipporah's parents have sent her to safety in Argentina, where she finds herself in a hotbed of anti-semites. As dead birds begin to fall from the sky at her feet, we realize that her parents have been lost, but to Tzipporah the birds become more alive and real than the world around her.
The use of bird symbolism is effective, but the story is would have been more moving if the other characters were more realistic instead of caricatures, so that it would be possible, for example, to feel something at the death of Sheila's father.
Blackout Man by David Sakmyster
Blackout Man has a strong gift, and the NSA has taken full advantage of his abilities with a black marker. This is a chilling image, inspired by the redacted sections of government documents.
Sausages by Marshall Payne
Former homicide detective Goodwin is an acute observer, and he knows that something is wrong with the world. For one thing, there are no homicides. And something is wrong with time. As Goodwin turns the corner out of the alleyway, he slides the chronometer from its leather sheath. Looking at the L.E.D. readout, his breath catches in his throat, his pulse quickening. It says that 351 days, fourteen hours, and twenty-seven minutes have elapsed since he zeroed the unit. But he only set it last yesterday afternoon before he buried it beneath the bricks. In the meantime, the sausage-maker is busy at his metaphorical work.
Strongly reminiscent of Farmer's Dayworld series. The sausage-maker is not what readers might at first think if they have recently seen the play Sweeny Todd.
Discards by Tim McDaniel
As a child, Ashu once earned fame and wealth in fantasy battlegames, using creatures from another dimension as his game tokens. The creatures were real, although Ashu did not treat them as such. He got all the glory, and after each battle his dazed and injured monsters, his gladiator, his tolls, were sent back into the cube. Now Ashu's mother has died, and in cleaning out her place, Ashu discovers the old cube, with the old creatures still inside.
A disturbingly familiar glimpse at moral cowardice.
How Thunder Dog Shed His Shadow by Brian Scott Hiebert
Roving through the night sky, the stars glowing around him like campfires, Thunder Dog wasn't afraid as long as Master was at his side. But Master is capable of cruelty, and when Thunder Dog loses the scent of Buffalo, Master discards him and keeps his shadow instead. But Shadow Dog can only track Shadow Buffalo.
A mythic, cosmic fable.
Staybehind Girl by Edward McEneely
Staybehind Girl's brother has gone away to jump over the moon, leaving her vulnerable to the stalker Jack O'the Night. Another fable, weird and surreal.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, July, 2009
Stories with a nihilistic theme for the first half of this month, and stories about thieves in the second.
The Land of Empty Shells by Caroline M. Yoachim
The gods made the first people out of clay in order to find a use for the empty turtle shells along the river. The people now make their children out of the clay of their own bodies, mixed with the rainwater caught in the turtle shells. But by the time Joren and Urvara's generation come make their own children, there are not enough turtle shells for each person.
This one takes the old line about the gods making people from clay and interprets it in a different and imaginative way. I don't believe the selfish, cowardly, whining Joren is worth the sacrifice, however.
The Bone House by James Lecky
Incessant wars fought with both steel and sorcery have wasted the land, and there is no prospect of an end to them. The sorcerer Draken once learned the Terrible Words of destruction, but their use turned him and his unborn son partly to stone. "You were cursed before you ever left the womb," Father once said, and little harsh, sandy tears had fallen from his eyes. "I never realised the harm that I was doing to my flesh, to her flesh. And for what? A pointless war that can never be won." Now Draken and Mikulas live alone by the banks of a river which carries the bodies of those killed in the war, and Mikulas carves things from their bones, notably an image of his dead mother. Then one day the river brings him a living woman with his mother's beloved, living features.
A Doomsday tale, strongly evoking the threat of nuclear holocaust.
Thieves of Silence by Holly Phillips
Zel and Gannet are lovers. Zel is a thief and Gannet claims not to be a whore. They have moved to the north, where they are piling up debts as Zel poses as Gannet's servant while she attempts to seduce a captain in the King's Guard. Zel attempts to rob a rich man's house, but she is caught by his daughters, who are witches, witchcraft being punishable with death.Audey spoke to her hands. "We laid a curse on the Torrends. That night, when you first found us. We had never worked such a powerful magic, nor such a dark one. Oh, it was so hard! And then, when the owl died, and you ran, we realized some of you had worked its way into the spell. Everything was wrong. Or at least, everything was changed."
A tale of some complexity. While the witches suggests it was their spell that changed everything, the real driver of this story is Gannet's selfishness–
Walking Out by Harry R. Campion
Crossways is a waystation inhabited by exiled criminals who live by exploiting the caravans who have no other route. It is also inhabited by "allegories," archetypes such as Sweet Death and Deadly Madness, incarnated by the beliefs and desires of the human residents. When they call, it is impossible to resist the summons, but sometimes a person's friends can succeed in pulling the victim back.I ran to help because I knew someday I would try to walk out again myself, and I wanted others to come and pull me back.
I can't help thinking that some king ought to conquer this place and make the caravan routes safe for honest trade, but this is resisting the pull of the Romance of Thieves. I would take this piece more seriously if the characters didn't all have unimaginative names like Creeper and Stitcher and Thiever.
Apex Magazine, June, 2009
That was short! This ezine's hiatus, erroneously reported here as its demise, seems barely to have altered its publishing schedule. There are two original short stories and a reprint of Jeff Carlson's long novelette "The Frozen Sky" from Writers of the Future XXIII.
She Called Me Sweetie by Glenn Lewis Gillette
A woman has repeatedly cloned her former lover, producing a new copy every year. The boys live together in a dormitory as they grow; they all call her "Mommy" and cherish their personal time alone with her, but now G, the oldest, has reached sexual maturity and is taking up all the personal time. E, our narrator, is sure that Mommy recognizes his unique personal gifts; he wants Mommy all to himself.And I read poems I make up. The others don't do that, I'm sure, because the first one surprised her. She'd had me read a poem, something about counting ways.
This story of jealousy is not as Freudian as its description might suggest. Its focus is rather on clones and individuality.
… That Has Such People in it by Jennifer Pelland
The aliens have shown up on Earth, and the government wants the species to look its best for them, so certain people are swept under the rug, or rather, kept underground. The second-person narrator, who heard voices, volunteered, but many others were sent unwillingly. The authorities kept promising that they would one day be released into a much better world, remade with alien assistance. And, surprisingly, they are. But the narrator doesn't like it.You tried to find a dark alley to skulk in somewhere, but there was none. You even took a flying car out of the city and tried sleeping in the cold woods for a night, but you woke to find that a heated tent had been erected around you in your sleep.
Pretty didactic and not original.
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, #1
A new ezine dedicated to the old stuff. It's clear that an unmet demand exists for this style of story, which seems to be disdained by most venues offering fantastic fiction. The introductory editorial declares that it hopes to "hearken an older age of storytelling—
This debut issue offers three works of prose fiction and two in verse. The ToC features a very annoying trait, cutting off part of the title and/or author's name when it exceeds some arbitrary number of characters. Real Bad Idea.
The Black Flowers of Sevan by James Lekey
Tulan is a mercenary captain in great favor with the prince he currently serves, but he has become fascinated with the prince's new consort, the Lady Shimshal, who always wears a wreath of fragrant black poppies around her neck. The prince is a jealous sort, who has a history of dismembering anyone who makes advances upon the lady, but Tulan is intrigued by the look of hate he sees in her eyes when she looks at her master. He knows there is a secret involved.
A fairly typical Sword and Sorcery tale, but it serves as a cautionary example of the pitfalls involved in fantasy nomenclature. It is set in a pseudo-Arabic milieu, but the author has made some name choices that readers may find jarring: "Nestorian" for an enemy kingdom, when the actual Nestorians were a schismatic Christian sect. And the prince, the "Melik," is given the name "Valerian Bal," which is not only not close to Arabic, it is the Latin-derived name of a soporific herb.
Man of Moldania by Richard Marsden
The last dragon slayer meets the last dragon. Golorus von Zekwit has seen better days and he has sold off most of his armor by the time he arrives in an impoverished Carpathian hamlet where a dragon has been reported. The villagers are too poor to meet his price and skeptical of his ability. And the dragon turns out to be the largest he has ever seen. But Golorus is a dragon hunter; slaying dragons is what he does.Sitting down heavily, Golorus looked toward the gloomy peak and let out a long breath as his mind played over the event. The dragon had moved swiftly, canny enough to sense interlopers plotting its demise. Despite its size, power, and obvious resilience, the wyrm had a weakness. In attacking them it had revealed too much.
An entertaining fantasy tale, slightly reminiscent of the Pied Piper story.
Beyond the Lizard Gate by Alex Marshall
Hardcore Sword and Sorcery. The evil sorcerer prince Agenor has been routed in battle by the alliance of his younger brother Inarus and the powerful sorceress sister he once blinded. But the evil prince has escaped the battlefield alive, and Inarus follows, obsessed with revenge, even at the cost of his own damnation.
This one takes the sorcery element over the top and across the line into horror, with demons, liches, undead warriors, and a gate into Hell. The prose, likewise, crosses the line:"The Seeress faces the Grey Master of Illusion at last. I took your eyes, sister, and yet by groping in the dark you have still managed to find me. This time I'll have your mind—