Beneath Ceaseless Skies #151, July 10, 2014

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #151, July 10, 2014

Reviewed in this issue are:

“Rappaccini’s Crow” by Cat Rambo
“Crossroads and Gateways” by Helen Marshall

A transgendered Navajo man named Vivian is the main character in “Rappaccini’s Crow” by Cat Rambo. Vivian has become an orderly in a sanitarium for veterans after a war that took his voice. The titular avian, Jonah, belongs to the facility’s doctor, Rappaccini. This is no ordinary bird. It appears able to reason and act volitionally in much the same way that a human would. After Vivian, whose life particulars are interspersed in a nonlinear fashion throughout the story, witnesses some of Jonah’s behavior—surreptitiously killing the cook, and stealing a wedding ring from one of the residents—he decides to kill the too clever bird. Things do and do not work out as planned. This story tackles a number of current social issues, and might have been stronger if the relationship between Vivian and Jonah were the primary focal point sans so many other unimportant distractions.

“Crossroads and Gateways” by Helen Marshall is a fable based on the Sasha/Zamani aspects of time as reckoned in some parts of the world. Here, a trickster god, Esu, visits a dead warrior, Dajan, in the desert of the past, Zamani. Using wit and wile, Esu manipulates Dajan into making a choice between staying in the past, or moving on to Sasha, the now, and a new life. This is a formulaic story where the deity appears, makes himself known to the human that has caught his interest, then, after putting said human through certain trials, gives him a choice without benefit of as much information as possible, leaving said human to make an uninformed decision which will likely have unforeseen consequences. Although the human here knows, or thinks he does, what he’s up against, he goes along with it, presumably because he has no other choice.

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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