Short Story Review: “Adramelech” by Sean Hazlett

2 of 5 stars.

Demon-possessions and demon-interactions [or in this tale something residing between the two] are more often related from an observer POV, perhaps by the battler of said demon [think: Exocist]. This tale opts for the potentially more Lovecraftian POV of the person possessed or enslaved when something unknown, dark and undefined takes over the narrator and creates a 200-pg journal in an ancient dead language. The book itself then has dark power, which is also Lovecraftian.

Unfortunately, the demonic book and the series of experts consulted all drop out of the narrative as the tale pulls back and lets decades elapse showing a demon-slaved human do a couple dark things to feed his demon dead orphans in exchange for his questionable gift of being able to possess another human temporarily in order to get them to do what he wants. His own body lies inert while this is going on. The body possession implications get short-changed narratively, too.

A longer form of this tale would perhaps explore a few of the issues and situations raised, along with the relationships of the people affected by the demon.

This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Useless Magic” by Andrew Peery

4 of 5 stars.

Family is complicated. Small towns that emulate an extended family can also be complicated. Not everyone expresses themselves well nor in a manner compatible with how others would wish to be treated. Nor are peoples’ talents and interests the same throughout the group. But it can also be those same differences that make the relationship or family or small town more interesting.

John’s dad knew quite a few magic spells. None were overly practical, but they could prove entertaining at times. Especially if he wasn’t trying so hard. His dad wasn’t known for expressing himself well or being overly nice. He was also overtly disappointed that each of his children could perform exactly 1 magic spell. One could make flowers grow. One could change the temperature by a few degrees. And one could make a quiet bubble of a few feet diameter.

Others magic families found the same things–the next generation could only master a single random spell. The second generation could do none-of-the-above.

What a beautiful metaphor for the many changes between the generations and the transition from rural America to modern urbanized America . . .

This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” by Todd McCaffrey

2 of 5 stars.

This tale was created in the fashion of many writing prompts, in this case based on a still drawing of an armored man fighting a dragon. That’s not much to go on and leaves things wide open for interpretation. Unfortunately, the fantastical folk tale that emerges is thin on plot and lacking development.

Creatures called raksha prey on domestic farm animals driving the rural folk away. Dragons feed on raksha. Until, that is, there are too few to feed on and then dragons prey on humans. Again, driving the rural folk away. Dragons also hoard gold because of legend and folk lore. It’s some sort of innate draw to one random element or particularly shiny color.

When raksha infest a village and then a dragon comes to feed on the raksha, the villagers send word to the duke to get help. The duke sends his disposable 7th son. The son kills the dragon, but stays in the village. That’s all pre-history. The tale follows the young pre-teen dragonslayer’s daughter as she hears the tale of the dragon every year on her birthday. Questions about her absent mother remain unanswered until her 12th birthday. In the absence of the dragon, raksha have returned and devastated the land driving the villagers away. If only there was a dragon to drive the raksha away . . .

The daughter has a bizarre draw to gold . . . and the father knows that her 12th birthday is an important one because, this is a folktale and knowledge that 12 will be an important number can just be assumed without reason, or prophecy or precedent . . .

This tale was included in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Wet Work” by Philip Nutman

3 of 5 stars.

This very short story takes zombie-lore into an original direction. The tale was later expanded into a novel under the same name by this author. I haven’t read the novel version, but can see the merits in a longer form for this tale and concept.

Zombies are intelligent. And social–pack-hunting. And every bit as cruel and disturbed as human serial killers. Organized groups of zombies, working for the zombified government hunt non-zombie humans for meat. Meanwhile, organized groups of non-zombie humans have declared urban warfare on the zombies . . .

The concept is fresh and worthy of novel-treatment. This satisfying short story merely wets the whistle for the potential contained within.

This tale appears in Book of the Dead edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: Unsaid

From my grassy nest shadowed from street light,
the two are silhouetted and still
except for the glowing cigarettes bobbing.
Though but a brush stroke of sound filters
through, cigarette gestures sketch conversation.
As one glows more brightly, the other
etches a broad emphatic loop concluded
by a tap sprinkling orange embers.
The answering one outlines a Picasso—
a point well made. Both fiery lights rise
and intensify as they are bellowed. Both
are then tapped as the lull continues.
One retraces its loop as the other plummets
shattering sparks then snuffed and ground out.
The first falls limp, dives, bouncing, spattering
a trail. The silhouettes rise and glide
out of view. My eyes focus on the glowing
remnant and heavily blink closing
as it winks out. I wonder what was unsaid.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “The Woodcutters’ Deity” by Walter Dinjos

2 of 5 stars.

Lying between folktale and myth, this Nigerian-based tale centers on supernatural royals and demi-gods exiled together. Two gods have disappeared and the ruling king and queen are dead. The four princes have been secluded until it is determined which has been divinely chosen to rule. The youngest of the four narrates and seems the most in tune to his surroundings, including to the presence of the missing nefarious goddess within the large tree on the grounds of the princes’ cabins.

Like folkloric trials, the young prince notices a series of 3 toxic animals [a scorpion, a snake and a spider] stalking his 3 brothers [one to each] under the power of the tree-trapped goddess. He stops each. The brother demands the almost offending animal killed. The youngest brother refuses, and then is stung or bitten by each before it disappears. The same pattern replays for each.

The youngest brother alone recognizes the innate cruelty in the older brothers. But also in the goddess. And in himself . . .

The tale doesn’t develop far beyond this series of events, nor does it truly get into the pre-history between the gods and parents. Also, the brothers are merely caricatures.

This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Long Dizzy Down” by Ziporah Hildebrandt

3 of 5 stars.

Artificial intelligence is much speculated about and the potential eventual conflict between humankind and Artificial “Life”. Assuming AI can self-replicate and spread like organic beings, or computer worms and viruses, humankind loses its status and master of tech. In this tale, AI ships go rogue and replicate. But more worrying than that, they kidnap young humans to “man” their ships and use mind controlling tech to virtually enslave the living.

Two human brothers are taken at the ages of 3 and 5 and then spend hundreds of years working for The Ship. The younger of the 2 is the narrative filter for the tale which places human social constructs and working language outside of his knowledge base–a knowledge base also regularly cleansed by Ship’s AI. The narrator is a man-child in emotional and verbal development filtering the tale through a pidgen-like language [or perhaps a creole since it seems to be his default language] to express his vantage of the events of the past few hours. Human authorities have taken him into custody to determine what he knows and understands.

For a vignette based on a speculative situation and not a full story, this works to an extent. It doesn’t contain within it a longer story with a plot.

This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]