Monday, September 21, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #182

Nothing out of the ordinary this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with two returning authors revealing some quite interesting second world settings. The first is a new installment to a running series that takes the food theme of its previous installment to some disturbing lengths. The second pits a young woman against the Patriarchy, with a little help from a walking house. Both are smart and fun, with some wackier bits of world building even as the stories are quite serious. Thematically they diverge a bit, but they certainly both feel fun enough to create a sort of continuity between them. So to the reviews!

Art by Tyler Edlin


"Murder Goes Hungry" by Margaret Ronald (6887 words)

This is the second story I've read now featuring Mieni and Swift, the first being "Sweet Death" from last November. As before, the story is a mystery set in a rich fantasy world. And again, Mieni is a wizened kobold and Swift the Watson to her Holmes. It's a nice dynamic, and the story does have something of a classic feel to it, a great construction and a rather satisfying mystery. This time the action is centered on a veterans' hospital and the death of a man who seems to have been eaten. The story makes good use of the ravages of war, building the world further by showing the magical means by which people are damaged. And, of course, things aren't quite as simple as they seem, and the mystery twists and turns a bit before the reveal. It's all there, and it's fun and it's interesting and there's a bit further development of Swift through it all. I find that I liked the previous story a bit more than this one, but perhaps that's because I like food more than I like hospitals. This one does a nice job of exploring damage, though, and the ways people cope with grief, with pain, with isolation. There are not a lot of villains here, though there are certainly a number of people who are unpleasant, or who commit crimes. Mostly, though, this is a story of survivors and victims, everyone trying to live with the damage they've suffered. It's not the happiest of stories, but it is neat to see it all fit together, to watch how the rules of this world influence the complex plot. For fans of mysteries, this is certainly one to check out. For everyone else, this is still a charming story with a great set of characters and an interesting setting. I would certainly keep reading more of these stories. Indeed!

"Flying the Coop" by Jack Nicholls (6704 words)

This is a nice story featuring a walking house, a woman fighting the Patriarchy, and a surprising amount of corpses. The story starts out with Nadia left to try and figure out what to do with the body of her recently deceased father. The rest of the town that she lives in are, to be blunt, assholes. Which is part of what interests me about the story, that much of anger and resentment that Nadia feels is not necessarily that she's treated poorly. One feels that, if it had always been consistent, she wouldn't have too much problem knowing what to do about it. The real kicker is that as long as her father had been alive she had been treated better. Treated in many ways like she was owned just because she had a living father. Which is all sorts of fucked up but also how things tend to go. Women are treated like property of the closest male in their life, and the real trouble for Nadia starts when she has none. No father, no brothers, no husband. It's a problem in her society, but one she has no real intention of fixing. She's stubborn and knows her value, and is intent on showing people that she won't be bullied. It's a nice message, complicated by the idea of Baba Yaga, the witch with the walking house, the walking house that suddenly has an interest in Nadia. The choice seems fairly clear in the story, embrace the witch or bow to the Patriarchy, but to Nadia's credit she chooses neither. Not wanting to tie herself to a man, she makes an alliance of a different sort, one which will probably confuse the hell out of people. It's a nice story, Nadia vivid and real, and my only wonder is if she actually finds a way to make it work. Because despite the stubborn confidence of Nadia, the story doesn't quite sell the idea that things are going to go...well. But a fine story still! Hurrah!

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