Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Belated Cirsova Issue #8 Review

Find it Here!

I am so far behind on reviews of 2018 material that it is incredible. It is why I can't rightfully nominate for the Planetary Awards this year. I have too many works I have not dived into or finished yet. So to make it up here is a review for an issue I started but lost then found again later. This is for Cirsova issue #8. I still have #9 and #10 as well as other books in my backlog to start and finish, so this might be the last one for a little while. This is what happens when you lose track of your reading pile.

Nonetheless, let us talk genre fiction. Does issue #8 continue Cirsova's streak of top notch heroic genre stories or is it a dud? Read on and see.

We start off with Slavers of Venus by Nathan Dabney, someone I am acquainted with online and have read other works of. He specializes in the sort of storytelling I like: fast, fun, and traditional, adventure tales. This one is reminiscent of Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure in which a spacefarer is stranded on a distant planet and must use his wits to survive. Against lizard men. This is the sort of thing that got me into reading the pulps in the first place, and I can easily see why it was placed at the front of the magazine. The first of two novelettes, this one is so fast paced you hardly notice its length, and it sticks with you until the end.

Second up is Littermates (Part 1 of 2) by J.D. Brink. I know Cirsova has stated that they aren't interested in serializations, but this is not one despite the title. Part 1 tells the complete story of a group of "littermates" (gene-spliced clones) that wreak havoc on a port station and space pirates that have to deal with the threat. Loony chaos ensues. I have not yet read Part 2, but I can tell you it is not due to any sort of cliffhanger on this one, but because as of writing this I haven't gotten to issue #9 yet. However, this one part is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

After that we reach the next story titled Breaking the Accords by Amy Powers Jansen. A war on a mystical distant jungle world reaches its climax as gods get involved. This one features intense action and such a great setting that I wanted to see more of. The only weakness of this story was the title. It's just a flat name to stick such a lively story with. Nonetheless, I dug this one.

Continuing the streak of engaging stories is The Dream Lords by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt. I had a hard time trying to describe this. This is a story of a wanderer and his quest for revenge, a town ruled by dream gods that overlook two houses, and nightmares that creep into reality. The world and conflict is constructed so well that I wanted to see what adventures would unfurl from the ending. Perhaps Mr. Uitvlugt will grace us with a follow up. We can only hope!

Then we come to Only a Coward by Jennifer Povey. This is a story about betrayal, death, and revenge, which has a bit of a twist in the ending that you may or may not see coming depending on how many revenge stories you have come across. Either way the language is evocative and helps maintain the protagonist's feelings on their plight and adds to the heavy mood. It's my least favorite story in the issue, but that isn't saying much as I still do like and recommend it.

The cover story, Party Smashers by Ken McGrath, is essentially a grittier cyberpunk version of Dirty Pair, featuring two female main character mercenaries hired to take out a terrorist before he sets off a scheme. Of course, in buddy action comedy fashion, things quickly spin out of control from the premise. It's a violent story, and the scene depicted on the cover of the magazine actually leads to one of the most gruesome I've seen in the pages of Cirsova. However, it is still Heroic Fiction at the end of the day and the main characters do their best to get their man by the end. You just don't see it happen in such a wild way too often.

Promontory by Jon Zaremba is the second novelette in the issue and is like if George Romero and HP Lovecraft got together to make a short together. It's an end of the world/horror/action/lost world combination the likes of which is not seen very often. I want to write more about it but I don't think I can accurately describe what occurs without rubbing off some of the power of the tale's mystique and strange structure. However, the ending is not much like either of the two creators mentioned above which gives it a different take on the concept. Definitely a worthy inclusion. I quite enjoyed the ride.

The final story in the magazine is Going Native by J. Manfred Weichsel, and is easily the funniest story I have ever read in Cirsova. There were several moments where I burst out laughing despite my best efforts. This is a cautionary tale about promiscuous sex with aliens that has some funny lines, moments, and scenes, ending in a perfect wrap-up about the dangers of fornication and stupid youth that nearly had me on the floor. It comes across as an old PSA or very special movie, but is played straight without having to wink at the audience. At the same time it does manage its theme and weird aspect convincingly well. I'm not sure if it's my favorite in issue #8 but it's up there. It's difficult to write funny weird fiction without it coming across as throwing spaghetti at the wall or trying too hard, but it is pulled off so well here that it almost looks easy. Perfect ending choice for the issue.

All in all this was a great step-up from issue #7 and one of the better issues of Cirsova that doesn't really have any weak point to speak of. I enjoyed all the stories a good deal and recommend you read them all. Cirsova's reputation is only growing and is greatly deserved with material like this.

Once again, highly recommended.

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