I gather Lord Yamada is a popular character who features frequently in Richard Parks’ stories, but this is my first exposure to Yamada. Here, at least, he seems to be a sort of Sherlock Holmes of the supernatural. Along with Kenji, his companion, he is tasked with investigating strange sounds, lights, and ghostly apparitions near a lake whose ownership, though legally settled, is still the source of friction between two rival daimyos. If you’re a fan of the Yamada series, or of Parks’ work generally, you’ll probably like this story. As a newcomer to the series, however, I found it somewhat amusing, but rather slight.
I really loved this story, one of the best in the issue. It was set in a richly, wildly full world (the opening scenes and characters felt like they could easily support a complete novel), and it was full of beautiful language and parts that made me laugh. This is exactly the sort of fantasy I want to read, and I look forward to reading more by Lindsey Duncan!
Content warning: Death (including death of children and parents; oblique mention of war).
Apocalypse, ghosts, a destructive plague, a lone walker, a talking dog, Norse gods…there’s a lot crammed into this story. I’m always a little wary of stories that open with a single person striking out on their own after an apocalypse, because it’s hard for a single character to carry an entire story, even a short one. But despite Katla being “more or less the last woman on Earth”, there’s a rich cast of characters, and enough interaction for Katla to become sympathetic.
I think I would’ve gotten more out of the story, though, if I knew my Norse myths better.
Oh, I loved this story. It combined intriguing and realistic science with a depth of character and a sweet thread of love and romance, and hope — so much hope. Beautifully constructed, a real joy to read. If you are looking for a “cosy SF” story, this is one for you.
This is the story of an invasive plant species that kills almost everything it comes in contact with, experienced through the titular characters — a mouse, a crow, and cockroachs.
While I liked the rotating points of views, overall I’m not sure how successful this story was. One the one hand, the experiences of the mouse, the crow, and the cockroach felt too human, too complex, to be believably animal. On the other hand, their experiences and impressions of the “plants” were not enough for me to really understand what they were (were they really plants, or some type of machine?). In the end, the arrival of the valkyries felt strangely out of place.
This story, written by the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, is arguably the best of the five stories in this special issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It features several interesting characters, including Lin, the adopted and youngest daughter of her country’s ruler, and Kuikin and Vertir, two agents of one of the country’s leading officials. As the story opens, Lin—last in line to succeed to the throne—is putting the finishing touches on what seems to be the major preoccupation of a solitary life: an intricate scale model temple built from the delicate bones of hummingbirds. Kuikin and Vertir, on the other hand, are enjoying a bit of the good life while posing as foreign investors in an anti-corruption investigation.
The stuff hits the fan when Lin’s father, the Dynast, dies and she must flee for her life with no one to assist her but a servant and her giant pet killer spider, Snub. The resulting narrative is an enjoyably paced adventure that includes, among other things, an impressive fight with blood ants. Though the story comes to a satisfying conclusion, it can also be read as the beginning of what I hope will become an ongoing series.
It’s appropriate that this story of rebirth begins with the narrator awakening from hibernation. Cel belongs to a clan of aquatic, egg-laying creatures that live symbiotically with a species of eight-legged, egg-laying water bears. The lives of both species revolve around protecting themselves and their eggs—their future, in other words—from numerous environmental threats. These include poisonballs, which sicken whoever they touch, and rollers, which eat the eggs and bite off the limbs and tails of all they encounter.
Shortly after Cel awakens and begins laying her own eggs, she learns of a new threat her people must confront: gray, shapeless beings that move slowly but relentlessly and somehow absorb whoever they meet. Further adding to the difficulty, the longtime leader of Cel’s clan has died and Cel reluctantly agrees to take charge. Whether she and her people have the inner strength and resourcefulness to face this foe and, in so doing, forge a different relationship with the water bears is what the remainder of the story relates. It’s a good story told well and the first-person description of Cel’s egg laying is particularly effective.