Sunday, 22 January 2012

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #86

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #86
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies gives us two stories: Calibrated Allies by Marissa Lingen and The Lady of the Lake by E. Catherine Tobler plus an audio fiction podcast (to be reviewed at a later date) of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Her Field-General, and Their Wounds by Seth Dickinson which was first published in BCS #85 in December.

In Marissa Lingen's Calibrated Allies we have a revolution seen through the eyes of student and recently freed slave Okori whose skills in modifying automata are put to good use in the opening acts of the conflict, and suggest interesting times ahead for the people of his home island.

There's a curious distancing effect at work in this story, with a stilted tone in the prose that gives you a distinct feel of an outsider looking in. Something which serves to show Okori's isolation from his fellow students and revolutionaries but does also stop the reader from connecting with the main character, at least until the last section where things loosen up a little. Having said that, it's still a compelling story.

The Lady of the Lake by E. Catherine Tobler is my favourite of the two despite a few early difficulties with the formal feeling language. It's a story full of trickery where no-one is who they first seem. Not Min, the dead woman who lives on an island and calls herself a lady of the lake; not Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of sea and storm whose quest is the catalyst for the story; and most especially not Sun Lin, the bubbling child whose visits delight the solitary Min.

Anyone familiar with the Japanese story of Susanoo-no-Mikoto slaying the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi will know roughly where it's going but having no knowledge of this particular branch of mythology (which I didn't) is definitely not a hindrance. Despite a couple of jarring paragraphs at the beginning, the story settles into an enchanting and enjoyably well told read.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is available for free here. and can also be read in PDF, mobi and epub editions. Check out their website for the details!

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