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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #77, September 8, 2011

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #77, Sept 8, 2011

“Salvage” by Margaret Ronald
“Gone Sleeping” by Heather Clitheroe

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

In “Salvage” by Margaret Ronald, Charles assists Colonel Dieterich and Professora Lindqvist in a search for Lindqvist’s student Phidias, whose airship has crashed in an area rich with derelicts.  One is a monstrous blimp called the Chiaro, once the stuff of legend.  Inside, they find Phidias, but he isn’t ready to be rescued.  The three newcomers find themselves drawn into a plot he’s concocted.   

This story has a steampunk feel, and a solid core, but suffers from too much detail.  Ronald had many interesting ideas, and tried to stuff them all into this tale.  Slow-paced and dense, it’s harder to follow than its plot warrants.  That takes much of the pleasure from reading it. 

“Gone Sleeping” by Heather Clitheroe is the tale of a simple village girl.  As an infant, she survived a terrible fire, and it left her scarred.  According to her mother, she was saved by Messir Wong.  He still visits daily, purchasing meat pies from her mother.  Her cousin, Noni, stops by, carrying a dead bird caught by her cat.  The little girl is shocked when she breathes life back into the bird.  Soon after, the cat dies.  When she brings the cat back to life, Noni dies.  The cycle continues, until something forces its end.

This story’s voice does a good job of establishing its main character.  Plot-wise, it’s a slow starter, with an outcome that’s both obvious and not terribly strong.  The progression spirals up nicely, but the chain of causality doesn’t hold, making the outcome less credible.