We take a look at Dungeon Heart, by David Sanchez-Ponton, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon #15, by Fujino Omori, and Iron Company, by Chris Wraight.
Sunday, January 3, 2021
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
“After three years we were weary and had suffered losses. Oh, the wonder wasn’t gone. How could it ever go–from world after world after world? But we had seen so many, and of those we had walked on, some were beautiful and some were terrible and most were both (even as Earth is) and none were alike and all were mysterious. They blurred together in our minds.”
Thursday, November 19, 2020
In "An Eye for an Eye", by Theodore Roscoe, we return once more to the French Foreign Legion and the soldiers' tales of Thibault Corday, the cinnamon-bearded retired legionnaire holding court in the cafes of Algiers. But where his introductory tale, "Better than Bullets", was one of the humorous and sanitized tales every veteran keeps for the children, "An Eye for an Eye" is a far darker tale of betrayal and wrath. Corday spins this tale to vex a particular loathsome American, who boasts of a fortune made from glass eyes. And, as always, great troubles come from the smallest of provocations:
"When two boys love the same girl there is apt to be plenty of trouble. Especially if they already hate each other, as with the case with those two young cadets at St. Cyr."
Corday recalls, as though from the front row of the audience, the crossing of swords between two cousins, Hyacinth and a promising cadet nicknamed Carrot (for his red hair). Jealousy provoked Hyacinth to strike at Carrot, and a beautiful and vain girl was just the excuse. The scoundrel left Carrot on the dueling field, leaving the once-promising cadet without an eye and with only the wrathful oath of taking an eye for an eye as company. Carrot would spend two decades training for and hunting down Hyacinth, with the cousins' paths finally crossing in Dahomey, a dark and haunted land perfect for settling wrathful deeds.
In Corday, Roscoe captures perfectly the voice of a veteran and a veteran storyteller. Corday is a master entertainer, able to keep rapt audiences at the café--and those reading--with nothing but the spoken word. Word choice, rhythm, cadence--all the tricks of a master orator, captured neatly on the page. You can almost hear the old soldier's laughter in each paragraph. It has been a vexing temptation to quote more from the old soldier than I already have. And it is my hope to one day find these stories matched in audiobook to the proper performer to give Corday's words the life they deserve. Say, what is John Ringo up to, these days?
But what stands out the most in this tale of revenge is that Roscoe has created a naturalistic weird tale, full of exotica, dread, and uncanny occurrence. He just provides a convincing natural explanation for the events. Corday is known to embellish his stories--as is common for a tableside war story--he just never stretches credulity by bringing in the supernatural. The normal passions of men are dark and mysterious enough to provide the backdrop to this cautionary tale. Even the twist at the end, where we find out just how close the cinnamon-bearded veteran was to the clashes between dour Hyacinth and fiery Carrot, falls perfectly into the traditions of the Weird. And it is in this vein that many of Corday's later tales follow.
The world might be plenty strange enough for Corday, but his tales are some of the most approachable of the adventure pulps, even now, where desert sands invoke Black Hawk Down instead of Lawerence of Arabia. Expect to see more about the old legionnaire, soon.
Monday, November 16, 2020
Arthur Wake’s rebellion encountered the vanguard of the Ynzu’s extermination fleet, humanity finds itself in the third decade of an alien siege. Mass-produced combat frames and far-flung extra-solar colonies have kept the wave of crystalline Ynzu reapers from sweeping humanity into the dustbin of history. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and none are more desperate than Project S.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
The Cirsova Fall 2020 Special has arrived, just in time for Halloween, with a new bundle of strange yet thrilling adventures, daring suspense, and even a horror story or two. To editor P. Alexander's immense credit, each one of the fifteen tales is worthy of a week's discussion covering both the stylistic and thematic choices. More importantly, and even more to his credit, each tale is worthy of rereading.
Here are but a few of the highlights.
The Fall Special kicks off with "Melkart the Castaway", an adventure from antiquity, when the gods were still yet men. This was an excellent adventure in the vein of Manly Wade Wellman's Kardios. (Reviewed in depth here.)
“The Way He Should Go” tackles fatherhood in the same vein as Lone Wolf and Cub and The Mandalorian, but brings life to the internal struggles of the father and the protector in ways that the more visual media of manga and television cannot. Don't think that it skimps on the intrigue and adventure, though.
"Tilting the Wick" slowly develops the mystery behind a strange monastery hidden off the map in a sword and planet future. Something as simple as repairing a pump sends a traveling engineer and doctor on the path to unraveling the monastery's heresies and chemistries. The setting and story are so pregnant with lore that it would not be a surprise to discover that this is but a chapter of a soon to be released novel.
"Slave or Die" provides a nice change of pace to the previous sword and sorcery and sword and planet tales. A convict laborer must escape a prison planet, where the bright future of Apple and SpaceX designs is bent to a more sinister end: work or die. As he struggles to escape, his captors proceed to nickel and dime him for every expense and luxury possible. Strip away the alien trappings, and this has a haunting "Not Ripped from the Headlines, but Give it a Few Years" feel to it. And more than a little dry humor. Perhaps the next prison will be of bright lights, white plastic, and streamed entertainment...
"An Accumulation of Anguish" is a Halloween monster tale where a trick-or-treater runs into not one, but two real monsters. It's a bit short, almost abrupt, but the twist at the end is worth it.
Not only did I enjoy the stories, I enjoyed how the stories flowed from mythological to sword and sorcery to sword and planet to technological future and then back to not-quite-present day. A nice trick of presentation that serves to set up the appetite for each story. For just as a reader's appetite for a particular type of fantasy is being sated, Cirsova provides something new when it would be most appreciated. Little touches like the organization and the pulpy fonts add to the presentation, especially in paper format.
But, as always, it comes down to the well-chosen stories. And, while Cirsova is a favorite of the Castalia House Blog, the magazine still doesn't get half the recognition it rightfully deserves.
The full list of Cirsova's Fall 2020 special includes:
“Melkart the Castaway” by Mark Mellon
“Its Own Reward” by Rob Francis
“The White Giant's Map” by Richard Rubin
“The Chamber of Worms” by Matthew X. Gomez
“After the House of the Laughing God” by Michael Ray
“The Way He Should Go” by Joshua M. Young
“Tilting the Wick” by J. Comer
“Slave or Die” by Benjamin Cooper
“He Who Rides on the Clouds” by Trevor R. Denning
“To Rest Among the Stars” by Su-Ra-U
“Ecliptical Musings” by Bill Suboski
“Not Any Earthly Shade of Color” by Danny Nicholas
“In the Bowels of the Theatre” by Matt Spencer
“An Accumulation of Anguish” by James Lam
“The Horror of the Hills” by Jude Reid
Monday, November 9, 2020
As the air chills and the leaves turn, and the lengthening shadows of Halloween creep across the fields, it is time again for the newest issue of Cirsova. Leading off the 2020 Fall Special is Mark Mellon’s “Melkart the Castaway”, a tale of wine-dark seas and of the men whom legend would turn into gods.