Sunday, June 3, 2012

Issue #96 Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Review

   Issue #96 of the always interesting Beneath Ceaseless Skies arrived the other day.  Neither of its two stories is S&S but both are well done fantasy stories more than worth your time.
   Adam Callaway's "The Magic of Dark and Hollow Places" tells two converging tales.  It's a curious, nightmarish story filled with parchment, ink and danger in dark tunnels.  The first is of the Inked Man, a strange figure covered in writing.  He's able to write things on his body that when torn off come into existence.  The other story is about a miner working under strenuous conditions writing to his girlfriend.  The point where they meet isn't unexpected but no less sorrowful.
   "Serkers and Sleep" by Kenneth Schneyer is less strange than "The Magic of Dark and Hollow Places" and perhaps that's why it's more successful.  In the lakes of the valley the narrator Scuffer lives in are things called serks.  When a man's bitten by one he first becomes incredibly strong and focused capable of great endeavors.  After two days, three at most, he becomes a raging homicidal paranoiac who must be killed.
  Scuffer's family owns a book, passed down through several generations that is unintelligible.  Till one day when Scuffer and his female friend, Dipper, risk parental wrath to open it.  Scuffer finds he, even though illiterate, can read individual sentences.  It becomes clear the book is giving him advice.  When Dipper is bitten by a serk the book saves Scuffer and sends him on a journey that will bring him into contact with legends from his town's distant past as well as a confrontation with its future.
   "The Magic of Dark and Hollow Places" is like a pain filled little dream.  "Serkers and Sleep" is more naturalistic. Both are quite good in their own distinct ways and recommended.

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