Saturday, June 26, 2010
Black Gate – Winter 2010 (Issue 14)—Part 2
I recently worked my way through the exciting first third of the newest issue of Black Gate, and now it is time to return to the magazine for part two of our three part journey. This time we will see 3 novellas, 3 short stories, and 1 poem, listed below with individual comments.
“Devil on the Wind” by Michael Jasper & Jay Lake: This tale of a witch heading to town to collect her coven’s “tax” on the citizens was one that fell entirely flat for me. I just couldn’t enjoy this one. After the level of enjoyment I took from my last Jay Lake piece, The Specific Gravity of Grief, this one was a major let down.
“The Price of Two Blades” by Pete Butler: A story-teller and entertainer sits down to learn a new story for his repertoire, and finds much more. This is an absolutely brilliant piece. The novella flew by, playing both with action fantasy and the art of telling stories. One of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve read from 2010, it would be an injustice for this one not to win some awards.
“The Girl Who Feared Lightning” by Dan Brodribb: A brief and wryly humorous tale of a security guard who has to deal with a rather supernatural problem. Brodribb presents a tale that works, but I wonder if it wasn’t as funny as it was supposed to have been.
“Wanted! A Clown Incognito” by Aamir Aziz: The first poem of the volume, this one wasn’t bad, although I have trouble giving a more substantial review of brief poetry than that.
“Destroyer” by James Enge: A tale of Enge’s popular character, Morlock the Maker. Morlock leads a family through hostile territory, trying to pass through a valley in the middle of a gigantic mountain range. With insect-like enemies on all sides, Morlock does everything he can to lead his charges to safety. This was my introduction to Morlock, and I will certainly be on the lookout for more, including both of Enge’s Morlock books out from Pyr.
“The Natural History of Calamity” by Robert J. Howe: The last novella of the collection is another winner. While I found this tale of a karmic detective in a case far deeper than she ever imagined to have an ending I didn’t find satisfying, the plot was very engaging, working as a mystery novella along with its fantasy trappings. I will be looking for more from Howe.
“Red Hell” by Renee Stern: In a steampunk-esque environment, criminals work off their debt to society as laborers. However, when one man is framed, he’ll do anything to escape. This one started of slow, but got better as it went along. It wasn’t one of the highlights of this issue, but it wasn’t too bad.
The second of the three sections proved to be even better than the first. Despite weak opening and closing stories, the novellas in particular stole the show. Stop back again in a couple weeks for the third and final part of my look at Black Gate issue 14, reviewing “The Lady’s Apprentice” by Jan Stirling, “The Wine-Dark Sea” by Isabel Pelech, “”On a Pale Horse” by Sylvia Volk, “La Señora de Oro” by R.L. Roth, “Building Character” by Tom Sneem, “Broadcaster” by Arthur Porges, “Folie and Null” by Douglas Empringham, “Spanish Dance” by Arthur Porges, an extended book review section, and a special 8-page Knights of the Dinner Table strip.