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

Aurealis #62, July 2013

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Aurealis #62, July 2013

“Remnants” by Dan Rabarts
“Leaves of the Manuka Tree” by Phillip W Simpson

Reviewed by Joseph Giddings

“Remnants,” by Dan Rabarts, takes us into a dark tale where an empire is falling, and the last ditch effort of its emperor, Ironbrand, is to find a lost fleet of ships in the desert and search them for an ultimate weapon that will help bring his empire to new found glory. Along with him, for assistance with the undead that still dwell within the wrecks, is Callas, a member of the Scarlet Brotherhood. A necromancer, Callas is also Ironbrand’s son.

I found this story oddly enjoyable because it takes a turn from just collecting a powerful item to a story of revenge and anger, not where I saw the story going. With a necromancer present, I expect the wizard to turn the undead minions against the raiding party, but instead I was very surprised with the outcome. Great prose makes the setting come to life in your imagination, but it is ruined by rather wooden dialog between Ironbrand and Callas. Despite this flaw, I recommend this story.

“Leaves of the Manuka Tree,” by Phillip W Simpson, is about a man, Tau, returning home after spending ten years in another star system, fighting a war for the United Nations of Planets. Of course, his ten years is a hundred back on Earth, due to time dilation. So, the Auckland, New Zealand he remembers differs greatly from the one he left so long ago. He finds that his ancestral people have built a rather large spire and become very successful, but now they want to meet with him, because his UPN granted enhancements will help them greatly in a challenge over their fishing lands (which are now a prized commodity on the overpopulated and overfished planet). Being a highly trained soldier he knows he can do well in this challenge, and since it’s his ancestral people he’s willing to help. However, the ritual and formalities aren’t practiced, and he soon learns this is less of a challenge between people and more of a corporate money grab.

This is a good story about how family can change over time, and how greed can be a powerful motivator for people, even those who couch it in tradition and honor. It also shows us that a soldier who spends too much time away from his home can eventually find that he has no home, aside from that of the battlefield. A well written story, I found the names of people and things very hard to follow as they were in more of a native bent (for New Zealand, of course). If it were more part of my own culture I may have found it more captivating, but as it was I was often having to stop to re-read a name and then look back to make sure I was reading it correctly or if it was a typo. Because of this, I cannot recommend it to a larger audience.