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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #283, August 1, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #283, August 1, 2019

"The Iron Eels" by Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis

"That August Song" by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The two stories in the latest issue of this biweekly magazine are dark tales of war and death set in fantastic worlds that seem both modern and magical.

"The Iron Eels" by Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis takes place after a disaster at a facility where magic is refined with technology to produce weapons of war. The accident releases uncontrolled, destructive magic, which contaminates everything it touches. The people living in the area undergo tests to determine if they are poisoned by the magic, which will change them into monsters. All who test positive are killed by the military. The protagonist is a veteran, brought back into service to perform the test on his fellow villagers, who are forbidden to leave the area. He knows the contamination will spread and doom his family. Using his knowledge of magical technology, he makes a desperate attempt to escape destruction.

The premise is an obvious metaphor for the dangers of pollution, particularly radioactive contamination after an accident at a nuclear power plant. The author mixes technology and magic in an interesting way. The manner in which the main character tries to save himself and his family strains credibility, as it depends on a great deal of luck. At times, the story is overly melodramatic, particularly when a rash of suicides strikes the village.

"That August Song" by Benjanun Sriduangkaew opens with a shocking scene, long before the reader understands anything about the world where it takes place. A pilot feeds her partner to the living vessel she operates in battle. The next scene shows a woman with three voices using song to bring such a being to maturity. The pilot convinces her to become her new partner as she goes to war against the gigantic creatures attacking the flying citadels where the rulers live.

This brief synopsis only hints at the many bizarre, often confusing aspects of this strange setting, set at a distant future time, when human beings no longer live on the surface of the Earth. The author shows great creativity and imagination, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. The opening scene features a pointless act of cruelty on the part of the pilot. It seems unlikely that the singer, a much less violent character, would agree to be her partner, let alone become her lover, as she does at the end of the story.

Victoria Silverwolf has yet another new cat at home.