Monday, October 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #314

Art by Vladimir Manyukhin
The two stories in the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies feature gods and people just sort of trying to get by despite them. The characters in both stories are searching for answers to questions they don’t quite know how to ask yet. Concerning pasts they can’t remember, and futures they hope to reach. They feature strange partnerships and large casts of memorable characters. And there are discussions in both stories about the nature of gods, and magic, and how it all works together. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!


“Eyetooth” by Chris Willrich (25791 words)

No Spoilers: Gaunt and Bone have been travelling together for some time--not exactly a couple but also totally a couple, both of them pulled by the promise of adventure--for the treasure involved or for the stories (Bone the thief, Gaunt the poet), it’s all basically the same. And, well, following a series of events that seem to have stripped Bone of his immortality, he’s following up on an old tip he got from a talking skull, to find something called the Eyetooth, which is supposed to be incredibly powerful. Snatching it, though, sets off a series of events that gets all sorts of powerful people (reputable and...not) involved, and threatens to maybe disrupt the very laws of reality. Which, you know, is rather a lot of handle when the two are also navigating what they mean to each other and what their futures might hold. It’s a fun and brisk read, alternating between light and grim and overall pretty dang charming.
Keywords: Magic, Keys, Prisons, Bargains, Relationships
Review: This story is A Lot, just fyi, at over 25k words. And yet it doesn’t dally with the space, building a lot of the setting while still sort of moving forward with the tale of Gaunt and Bone. the two have a bit of backstory, and we’re treated to that in bits and pieces, so that new readers should have no problem understanding what’s going on while people already familiar with them will be treated to a new complication in their relationship, a drawing closer as the two of them navigate not just their latest heist and fallout but the intricacies of their relationship and what they want out of their present and their future. Weaved into that is a larger plot about the nature and fate of magic, and how that feeds into order, merit, and luck. The piece plays with the idea of magic and how it might fit into our world, drawing a line between the fantasy of this setting and a possible resolution into the more “mundane” world we live in now (more rational world?). And it doesn’t do so with a simple binary option, but in a measured attempt to do as little harm as possible. To not further the status quo when it comes at the pain and captivity of a sentient person. To not embrace the full extent of change when it will come with violence and genocide. to aim somewhere like gradual change, history bending perhaps not towards justice but away from a system where luck plays so much a hand. Where probability can be more important and where people have some measure of ability to try very hand and achieve something great. Which is basically what Gaunt and Bone do, risking everything so that they can maybe save themselves and the world at large. Even if it means they lose a lot. Even if it means they won’t be together as long as they might have been. But that, too, isn’t set in stone. The piece also speaks about happy endings, and as much as those are important, it seems to recognize that the stuff before then might be the more important. That the happy ending doesn’t have to be just the last little bit. That it can be an ever after instead, full of further adventures and misadventures. The story is fun, charming, and full of interesting and delightful characters. It’s not a quick read, but neither does it cluttered or slow. It moves, and it takes as long as it needs to tell a great story!

“The Drowned God’s Heresy” by Lavie Tidhar (10082 words)

No Spoilers: Gorel of Goliris is a gunslinger and an addict to a drug only gods can make. He also seems to be between jobs at the moment, which is lucky for his friend, Jericho, who wants him to come along on a mission that might be related to Gorel’s lost home. To Goliris, which is more myth than reality to the people living in this part of the world. Goliris, where Gorel was prince until a coup killed his father and left him exiled on the other side of the planet with no way of finding his way home. Jericho has a map to a sunken ship that might have been from Goliris, and that might be filled with fabulous treasure. might be full of something completely different. The piece is strange but wonderfully built, a fantasy odyssey that’s something of a heist but with...complication.
Keywords: Gods, Guns, Seas, Homelands, CW- Drug Use, Queer MC
Review: I like the mash up of elements that make up the world of the story. The take on divinity, the complications of that take. The fish-people, the mysterious rumors of shadow people and god-killers, the vaguely Western feel of the gunfighter, the Lost Continent of Goliris. There’s pirates and there’s mercenaries and there’s villains (who Gorel might have been involved with romantically/sexually) aplenty. Even the relationship between Gorel and Jericho is rather great, both of them survivors despite living ridiculous and dangerous lives. They don’t trust each other, not really, but even so they don’t turn on each other either, and it’s rather great to see that kind of friendship among men who obviously don’t really make friends. As for Gorel, I like the mystery built up around him. The piece has the feeling of an introduction to me (unless I guess there’s past material out there) because it sets up a lot of questions without really answering them. Gorel’s home is distant, but there’s something special about it, and it seems like for all that Goliris has been impossible to find information about for a long time, that might be making a dramatic reversal. And Gorel is also someone dealing with addiction. Not super well at the moment, for all he thinks he’s doing so well. Feeling in control of it seems to be part of his issue, though, not taking it serious enough, and it seems like that might need to be faced at some point in the future. For now, though, more pressing is the whole relationship between gods and people going on, and how Gorel might remember a strange and grim reality from his home. One that now might be encroaching on the land of his exile. Which might start to bring him answers, but they might not be what he wants to hear. And It’s an interesting and complex world that’s rendered well and that comes with some great and fun moments (the bureaucratic god monster was delightful!). The action is intense when it comes, and the piece otherwise creates a nice weird fantasy that flows nicely and that I hope continues in some fashion. A great read!


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