Monday, March 21, 2016

Last of the Heroes

Alright, so finishing off my last bit of these reviews is the rest of the issue. It's quite the packed issue for its size.

The final three stories (and essay!) in the first issue of Cirsova include Late Bloom by Melanie Rees, The Hour of the Rat by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, A Hill of Stars by Misha Burnett, and an essay by Jeffro Johnson.

Of this set the first is Late Bloom. It is a story of a woman who is heavily abused by a petty tyrant and longs to be free of him. It involves a mad inventor, a time device, flying ships, and a daring escape. As an adventure story it is quite engaging with a lot of neat ideas, though the main story takes a while to get going. The fact that it is the weakest here shouldn't be considered a slight, because the other two stories are the best in the issue.

The Hour of the Rat is a hard story to explain without ruining the fun, so I'll let the blurb do it for me:

"Moving swiftly through the shadows and evading guards and servants, a girl means to retrieve an important heirloom, but Nezumi would soon find out she was not the only one looking for revenge in the house of Lord Tomigawa no Kana that night!"

Think ninjas, sword battles, and an epic monster confrontation, and you're pretty close to nailing it. This was probably my favorite story here, and there were some great ones like the next tale.

Finally, A Hill of Stars is the longest story here, and quite the treat. It's the story of a man who was once the servant of a being from the race known as the Great Ones who sets out on his own after his master dies to see the world for himself. On the way he meets new faces, races, places, and other things that might rhyme with "aces" ending in a final confrontation that is quite, uh, hairy.

It was a wise choice to put this at the end of the issue not only because it is the longest, but because it feels a bit like the culmination of the other stories ending with a finale that really sells the spirit of adventure.

The last thing to talk about is the essay by Jeffro Johnson on the novel, Toyman, by E.C. Tubb, and comparing the rules it established in space travel with the game Traveller which took much inspiration but forgot a lot of the appeal. As someone who had either never played Traveller or read the book in question I quite enjoyed his comparison between the two as it did shine a light on a problem I see a lot, especially these days. When we don't go to the source and consider the roots of what we love, we might not only miss out on seeing it from a new perspective, but we might even miss why it exists in the first place!

I know this from experience with my read of Three Hearts & Three Lions by Poul Anderson. I don't read much modern epic fantasy and this book emphasized a lot of the reasons why. That said, I thought the book was excellent as a fantasy tale and a story, but the elements that had been borrowed for D&D and in turn swiped for many other fantasy stories miss a lot of the heart (pun intended) that beat at the center of this story of a man fighting for a world he never knew could exist. Reading it was such a fresh experience because I had never read a modern fantasy novel that ignores unwritten rules because they simply didn't exist when the story was written.

The essay explains this much better than I can, which also helps it serve as a great final capper on the issue. Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction was once standard for the genre(s) and reading these proved to me why that is. There's a great sense of timelessness in stories about those who bravely fight against the odds as the darkness encroaches on them. It's why Lord of the Rings is a classic despite so much gnashing of teeth and why magazines like Cirsova are such a breath of fresh air in such a stale climate.

In case these reviews haven't convinced you yet, well, what are you waiting for? Go read Cirsova and experience some fun adventure! Stuff like this doesn't come around every day, even if it should.

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