Friday, July 27, 2018

Where Weird and Wonder Meet ~ Cirsova #7 Review

I've been reviewing Cirsova magazine on this blog longer than any other pulp product so far. There's a reason for that. Since starting in 2016, Cirsova has been known for quality and helping the growing legion of pulp writers have a sandbox to play in. Six issues in and, a whiffed story here and there aside, it has yet to make a mistake. Whereas most magazines these days don't last a year, Cirsova has gone beyond to make itself the best pulp magazine currently running. I don't say that lightly or as an exaggeration. Picking up an issue of Cirsova is like opening Pandora's Box--whatever awaits inside is guaranteed to rock your world.

So how about issue #7? I've reviewed the first six so far, and while the last one was one of my favorites I had heard issue #7 was a step down. I do find that hard to believe since the weakest, in my opinion, was the double issue #4 which merely suffered from stuffing in some lesser stales to pad the length. Had it been a normal sized issue it would have been as good as the others. But enough of that. Let's take a look and see just what the problem might be.

Dominika Lein's Galactic Gamble starts off the issue with a good dose of the strange. A spacer finds himself stranded on a gambling planet, his friend captive, and his ship taken. Now he must use his (bad) luck to get it all back. I quite enjoyed this story. Lein has a way of making the odd and bizarre seem as normal as cheese on toast, and this one is no different. It isn't the most action packed tale, but it is a whole lot of fun, and that's what I read Cirsova to get. Excellent start.

Michael Reyes then returns to Cirsova's pages with The Iynx. This is one of his Clock stories about a Chaos Magician who solves obscure paranormal problems. In this one Clock deals with an ancient relic called The Iynx, and a man who is planning to use it to resurrect his dead fiance. Chaos ensues. Of all the stories I have read by Reyes, I believe this is the strongest one yet. Sharp prose, clear stakes, and a blistering pace make this a top notch read.

The third story is The Legend of Blade by Jason Scott Aiken. This is a post-apocalyptic fantasy action story of a group of kids raised to survive in fight in the harsh land. It is quite tight and the pacing is rapid fire. The ending might not have been needed on a narrative level, but it does add a sufficient sense of wonder to the proceedings and the worldbuilding. And that is always a good thing in a pulp tale.

Unfortunately, I can't say I was a fan of The Great Culling Emporium by Marilyn K. Martin. A bounty hunter arrives at an emporium to find his prey and talks to an old flame. The problem is that there isn't any tension or much in the way of stakes. Jobard enters the emporium and there is a long and well detailed description of the place. He then talks to his lost love. He then easily finds and captures his bounty without much struggle. The old girlfriend shows up and picks him up in his craft. Then it ends. I was not much engaged by this one.

Louise Sorensen's The Toads of Machu Hampacchu is the shortest normal story in the issue, and it shows it with how little actually occurs. This is about a guide that leads a bunch of people into what appears to be an ambush of lovecraftian creatures. It's a solid story, but doesn't stand out.

But then we come to the centerpiece of the issue, a new Dream Lords story by Adrian Cole, In the Land of Hungry Shadows. Witchfinder Voruum and his apprentice, Kaspel, go on a quest into the titular dark land where monsters roam and a city that lies which holds a deadly surprise. This is the longest story in the issue, and definitely one of the best in it. Mr. Cole hits it out of the park again. Honestly, this should have been the final story in the issue as its impact is kind of diluted by the two lighter pieces that followed.

Criteria for Joining the Galactic Community by Michael Tierney and Anna and the Thing by Abraham Strongjohn are short nuggets of stories that barely fill two pages apiece. The first is about a president who gets a visit from aliens and the second is about a kidnapping gone wrong. I quite enjoy these two writers, and these stories made for good filler, but they're not to their usual level. If I had to choose a favorite of the two it would be the one by Tierney.

We are then treated with another fantastic installment of the John Carter poem by James Hutchings which leads into an actual letter from a reader. He is not much of a fan of issue 6 (unlike me) and uses the space to complain about the quality of several stories (including one I liked a good deal) which is not really gone into in much detail other than vague complaints. It's a nice break to see an actual letter, but it's a bit of a sour note to end the issue on.

So, yes, I do see why some see this as the weakest issue of Cirsova so far. I don't think this one was particularly well paced by putting two of the strongest stories at the front and then two of the shortest at the back, and the letter might have been better at the front since it does bring the mood down. But all in all, it's still solid. Not the strongest issue, but considering Cirsova's quality level that's not much in the way of a complaint. This is still strong pulp material.


I'm also creating entertainment of my own! Check out my novel, Grey Cat Blues, if you haven't. Action, adventure, and romance, on a distant planet at the edge of the universe. What more could you ask for?

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