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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #273, March 14, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #273, March 14th, 2019

Through the Doorways, Whiskey Chile” by S.H. Mansouri

New Horizons” by Alexander Stanmyer

Reviewed by Geoff Houghton

First in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #273 is “Through the Doorways, Whiskey Chile” by S.H. Mansouri. This complex story is set in a truly surreal world. The fantastical is introduced early in the text when we learn that the narrator, Jeremiah, is a rather anthropomorphic bullfrog who can spit destructive fire in support of the protagonist, Brady Nokes. It continues apace!

Brady has been left an orphan with the knowledge that his mother was murdered by semi-magical means and that his father subsequently vanished under mysterious circumstances. Now that he is fully grown and has developed powers and mystic abilities of his own he must pass through magical doorways and meet many deadly challenges in order to confront the Whiskey King, the murderer of his mother.

They finally meet in the mystical land of Jubilee, a reality as strange as that in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. There, the Whiskey King reveals his true identity and Brady is made an offer that appears impossible to refuse.

The world conjured up in this story is strange and complex and there is no true hero. The morality of all of the participants is questionable by our mundane standards, and Brady must carefully thread the course between multiple evils to find his own answer and his own peace.

New Horizons” by Alexander Stanmyer is set in a world dominated by a callous slaver Empire. The Empire is sustained by industrial-scale magic, including armoured trains powered along virtual tracks by magical means.

The Captain of the armoured train Horizon is driven to a forlorn rebellion by the Empire’s ruthless treatment of the indigenous nomads of the Empire’s new lands. The armoured train is pursued by powerful Imperial forces and her attempt to convey the helpless children of a slaughtered nomad tribe to safety fails. The task of completing her mission falls to the last survivor of her crew, Chester, himself only twelve years old and recently liberated by that same Captain from the clutch of sea-pirates.

It is unfortunate, but probably necessary to the storyline, that the most complex and nuanced character has to die early in the proceedings, leaving a simple story of good against evil, with an overwhelmingly powerful enemy pursuing the innocent with entirely malicious intent.

Geoff Houghton lives in a leafy village in rural England. He is a retired Healthcare Professional with a love of SF and a jackdaw-like appetite for gibbets of medical, scientific and historical knowledge.