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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #219, February 16, 2017

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #219, February 16, 2017

Gravity’s Exile” by Grace Seybold

The Last Dinosaur Rider of Benessa County” by Jeremy Sim

Reviewed by Anne Crookshanks

Grace Seybold’s “Gravity’s Exile” begins with Jeone Serrica scrapping for her life with a giant lizard on a wall of rock, suspended high above half of everything. But it’s where she expects to be, if not today then tomorrow, as she has chosen to be an explorer of the many, many isolated kingdoms and villages that lie below and above the spot she currently defends. It is a different path than most women choose, but it suits her. Jeone is a matter-of-fact person whose curiosity sometimes outweighs her common sense. Any other guest at the village she will soon visit would have given her plainly worried hosts their space and not silently followed them into the darkness and discovered their long-held secret.

This is a straight-up adventure story in many ways, with vivid description. Likewise, it immediately introduces the stranger whose superior combat skills and sharp wits will let her defeat a generations-old evil. What’s relatively new is that it’s a heroine taking on these forces, working with the women, while the men are sidelined—though perhaps not entirely convincingly. The horrific, visceral description of what should be an act of nature in the center of the narrative is probably not for squeamish readers, but its presentation as disturbing and unnatural is important to the story.

Because of the ready-made path for her adventures (surely there are other kingdoms, high and low, to explore), it is likely Jeone will be seen again.

* * *

So, a rider ambles into a town he hasn’t visited for years. He and the town, they’ve got a bad history together, but he needs to look up an old acquaintance. Business partner, you might say. Surely the start to a good Western. Howsomever, in Jeremy Sim’s “The Last Dinosaur Rider of Benessa County,” the rider, Black Jonas, is no cowboy. He’s a pleeboy, riding his faithful pleesaur, and the hitching post is a mooring post off the Main Canal instead of the Main Street. Black Jonas, as he calls himself now, hopes he can glide into town quietly, get what he came for, and find a way back home, meaning money owed him for a ticket back to the Mainland. Funny how things never work out that easy in Westerns, neither the traditional version with sagebrush and goldmines nor this kind with its played-out deposits of precious minerals dredged from oceans deep. “The Last Dinosaur Rider” is a pleasurable read with heart and imagination.