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2013 Stories 92 - 97

Somewhere along the way, I messed up the numbering on these posts. I started to go back and re-number but realized a) that's only going to take time away from posting new reviews and b) I can't identify exactly where the skip happened. I thought I found it and started to remember (if you page back you'll see two entries that say "edited to correct numbering" at the bottom), but then discovered that only got me 1 closer to where my database says I should be. And I'm inclined to believe the database is correct since I have it locked into a key that doesn't allow me to skip a sequential number or repeat an already used number. So for now, until I have more time, I'm just going to pick up this new entry with the correct numbering. I'd like to think someone would have noticed the jump if I didn't explain it. So there you go. This time up, I have a story from The Strand, four from the most recent issue of Lightspeed (I only proofread half the issue this month, and haven't made my way back to read the rest of it yet), and one from One Story.

92. SO LONG, CHIEF by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, from the Feb-May, 2013 issue of The Strand.  Another unfinished Spillane piece that Collins has completed and published. Mike Hammer goes to visit a dying police chief, a man who made an impression on Hammer when Hammer was a kid. This of course pulls the PI into a mystery, when the chief dies a short time later from decidedly un-natural causes. The story is tightly-told and the end really shows the difference between Hammer and some more modern detectives. Not everyone will be happy with the way the story ends, but I found it to be satisfactorily classic Hammer.

93. THE MAN WHO CARVED SKULLS by Richard Parks from the May, 2013 issue of Lightspeed. In a society in which land is at a premium, bodies are destroyed after death except for the skulls; skulls are carved with the deceased's life story and place in a mausoleum. A talented skull-carver wins the love of a beautiful girl with a promise it turns out he may not be able to keep, forcing their son to a hard choice.  I felt for all three of the main characters and the positions they find themselves in echoed with my own family history in a way that made the story painful but also cathartic.

94. ALWAYS THEY WHISPER by Damien Walters Grintalis from the May, 2013 issue of Lightspeed. This is the second "retelling" of the Medusa story that I've read recently, and in typical Grintalis form this one is moving and disturbing. The author moves Medusa to the present day and shows us a different side of the well-known curse, and her twist on the legend works incredibly well both as a horror story and as a treatise on the way we view beauty. I found myself pulled in by Medi's internal struggle and the steps she takes to move beyond the curse.

95. THE AARNE-THOMPSON CLASSIFICATION REVUE by Holly Black from the May, 2013 issue of Lightspeed. A fairly straight-forward set-up (werewolf girl must hide her true self from her co-workers) takes a nice twist. I'll admit to a slight frustration with the main character, who doesn't realize what's going on around her until the very end of the story, but it's a frustration that felt right -- the main character is an introvert and in some respects an innocent. The ending moments of the story are spot-on.

96. LEAVING THE DEAD by Dennis Danvers from the May, 2013 issue of Lightspeed. Credit to Danvers for giving us a post-extinction-event story that doesn't have the dead returning to life. The market is so saturated with zombies right now that it's a pleasure to read a story where the entire human population (at least, so far as the main characters know) has died and the only remaining threat is from normal animal predators. The author also gets kudos for shifting POV repeatedly in such a short space (man to woman to dog) and not having it be disruptive.

97. THE MESSENGER WHO DID NOT BECOME A HERO by Douglas Watson, from the April 8, 2013 issue of one story magazine.  This is one of those stories that I can decide how to rate. In some respects it really worked for me, and in others it didn't.  The style and language are classic fairy tale mode, focusing on an adult character in an uncomfortable situation (in this case, a messenger who works for a king who is disliked). I like the set-up and way the author moves the character into a new situation (delivering a message to an army garrison during the height of public revolt) but then the story veers off into Les Miserables territory; the whole tone of the piece shifts. And then it shifts twice more: to stranded-survival tale and into ... I'm not sure what to call the last few pages, except maybe to compare them to the work of Mitch Ablom.  I'm not sure if the author's intent was to pastiche the major phases of "stories with a moral" (in which case he somewhat succeeded) or perhaps to point out that life is unpredictable and variable (again, somewhat successful) or if it was to tell a cohesive story (somewhat unsuccessful). The disjointed nature of the story is what worked against it for me personally.

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