Review of The Ghiling Blade

He yearned to sail through the Dimling Portal and pass through to Ghinn and all the mystical realms beyond.

What happens to the ambitions of youth when they run hard into the drudgery of an ordinary life? Dah’nok, a fisherman, once dreamed of great things for himself but, as so often happens, the dreams have kept receding as he aged. He is left with his work, his wife, and his son to console him.

Yet, again, as so often happens, those things cannot console him, not fully. He dreams of more, and his dreams draw him into a dangerous world of ancient wraiths and greed that threaten to consume Dah’nok altogether.

I want to convey just how much I enjoyed “The Ghiling Blade,” by Matthew Corradi, but it is not sufficient simply to state my enjoyment. Speculative fiction is at its best when, like the solution to that old math puzzle about using four lines to connect several dots, it breaks us out of our assumptions and provides a new vantage from which to regard our experiences. The world of “The Ghiling Blade” is fantastical, steeped in strange history, but the problems the characters face are basic and real.

What should a father do when his long-cherished ambitions begin to threaten his family life? Choose family? Choose ambition?

At its heart, this story is about the power of choosing to try. It is much more than that, of course–for one, it is a verdant and kaleidoscopic journey through a well-realized and charmingly weird world. In being all this, it is the best of speculative fiction as well.

“The Ghiling Blade” appeared in the January/February 2011 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Review of Canterbury Hollow

They decided their names and a small bridge between them would be enough.

“Canterbury Hollow,” by Chris Lawson, moves with efficiency through an elegant and moving love story. The story struck me as, in a way, like an exercise in distillation. We have questions about the way the characters are acting, but the answers serve to intensify and clarify the value and meaning of their actions.

The setting is well-realized and serves as a fitting backdrop for the theme of distillation. The planet Musca’s sun is intensifying, and soon it will destroy the surface. The challenge of saving what can be saved animates the story, along with the difficult fact that some things cannot be saved at all.

The lovers make what they can of their lives, and every one of their choices is crystallized in transient significance.

“Canterbury Hollow” appeared in the January/February Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction