Reviewed by Damien Smith
If you’ve managed to snag yourself a copy of Wall of Storms, the second book in the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy, I’m am reasonably certain you will have already experienced the wonder that is Grace of Kings. If not, what on Earth are you doing starting the second book of a trilogy? Luckily, I’ve previously reviewed Grace of Kings right here at SQ Mag. Nip over and have a quick read of that review, then settle down for however long it takes you to plough through an 800+ page Big Fat Fantasy. I’ll wait.
When the world can be fed on the hurts, the small slights and arguments that pepper our lives, surely most people could be well fed? Not so for Greg, who looks out into the universes to see how it could be done differently. Sometimes though, people just need to get their teeth into something. – SY
Meek as a newborn lamb, Greg Rindes bowed his head and plodded inside the strifeteria. The yellow-painted brick building was several thousand feet long and wide and held nearly all the staff of Milligan’s Alternate Reality Analysis Center.
Today the strifeteria was holding its monthly puncheon full of rich, junk food physical conflict. Several of Greg’s co-workers were standing in the dining rings, beating each other with their fists and feet. The air was thick with the stink of blood and sweat.
Each time one of the combat diners struck a blow, the air between them filled with high-calorie conflict threads that both chubby combatants absorbed through the conflict pores around their bodies. Like the fighters, several staff members outside the dining rings had grown fat from consuming too many physical conflict calories. Nevertheless, they still cheered when the diner fighters resumed beating each other senseless.
A man floats in the deeps of Malta, returning to a place he has spent most of his life avoiding. The power of the ancient sea has long overshadowed his life and tonight marks a new turning point in its history. -SY
Thirty miles off the shore of Malta, his wife of forty years wept like an orphan. It was their first vacation in far too long and taken at her insistence. A return to the old country. Needless to say, it hadn’t gone well. Call it a clash of cultures, a patriotic scrimmage. These kinds of wars were fought on quiet fronts.
Back in the navy, he’d been little more than a handyman for the Marinai housing outside of Sigonella, a lowly liaison to the local contractors. Still, he’d been proud of his uniform, and she had too. It’s what caught her eye when he’d first sat at her table. Tonight, when he asked her to dance, she shyly agreed. This was a game they played, pretending the old days were new. When every kiss was the first, there would never be a last.
A dozen men in long beards and tourist prints took offense to his attire. When they tipped him overboard, they made sure he fell facing the night sky. They wanted pop-eyed fear, cries of desperation. He turned his face to the sea. He couldn’t bear to see her framed by such filth.
The waters slapped hard against him, wrapped tight, and pulled him down. He floated in darkness and thought only of her. Already the ship was distant, the slow roll of its wake finding the Mediterranean’s rhythm. They would reach the Syrian coast in two days. Maybe someone would stop them, but it wouldn’t be him. He would exhale. He would inhale. After a quick struggle, he would rest.
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
When we finished All is Fair, we left Cathy as the new Duchess of Londinium, having rescued a house full of women and servants inconvenient to the political aspirations of the powerful Aquae Sulis ruling class. She is secure in the love and respect of her husband, Will Iris, believing that he will back her as she challenges the Victorian-era status quo.
In free-bioform Hong Kong, Dorotéia Fernandes performs on her lute. A meeting with Kailee, part bat-part woman, lingers with her well beyond their evening conversation. A whole new world opens before her. -SY
Puffs of breeze were the first I knew of her. A gust of wind first tickling at my hair from behind, then blowing into my face. Then a voice: “Dorotéia.” And a few seconds later: “Ms. Fernandes.” It was a thin, high-pitched woman’s voice, with only a hint of Cantonese accent, and it came from somewhere above me.
It was late, and dark. I’d just finished my recital at Hong Kong University’s concert hall, and I was in the nearby Tai Mo Shan Park, trying to walk off my post-performance adrenaline. The path I was on was dimly lit, and when I looked up there was at first only a black sky. But in the next moment I saw a flicker of movement, a shape. She was flying, hovering, then landing on the path in front of me. The span of her wings must have been eight or ten feet, but her body was tiny, the top of her head barely my waist-height. She was dark brown, almost black, and whatever she was wearing was close to the same shade as her membranous wings and the skin of her face. Only her hair was a different color; a splash of closely-cropped blonde curls at the top of her head and disappearing behind huge, pointed ears.
“Ms. Fernandes,” she said again, “please don’t continue down this path. There are some men ahead who look…unsavory.”
Reviewed by Lee Murray
I thought I’d start 2017 with a short and explosive read to launch us into the New Year, so James Rollins’ Crash and Burn, a Sigma Force short story was the perfect choice.
For readers not familiar with Rollins’ Sigma Force novels, the series focuses on a clandestine division of the United States’ DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), a band of former special forces operatives retrained as scientific field officers and assigned to protect US interests against everything and anything that can go wrong in military experimental science.
He’s just a poor boy from a fishing family but his heart is captured by a bird of paradise, flitting out of his reach. Tino has a plan to bring his dreams of life with Delice to fruition, but every dream requires that some part of yourself is given up. – SY
The crunch of dirt mixed with the coppery taste of blood. Tino worked his jaw, opening and closing his mouth slowly. A burst of fireworks erupted behind his eyes, but it appeared nothing was broken. He rose to his knees and leant his head against the limestone wall that ran the perimeter of Delice’s house. Her house? Nay, her prison. He spat a russet-stained wad onto the ground; and with it his anger and shame.
Delice. Delice. The sound of her name was like running his nails down a skein of finest satin in the marketplace. He had seen her there first. She walked alongside her father, stopping at stalls to test the ripeness of a papaya, or watch a potter turn his wheel. It was as if she sensed his presence, and she’d turned to meet his stare. Eyes the colour of the sea kissed by morning sun.
He held himself in those eyes for as long as he dared; the net he wove forgotten in his hands. It was his grandfather’s voice that broke the spell.
“What exquisite bird of paradise keeps you from your task?” Grandfather kept at his work, strong fingers braiding and pulling, but a knowing smile stretched his sun-creased face. Tino blushed. He busied himself refolding and hanging their wares around the little stall that had served as his family’s livelihood for four generations.
And then, there she was. A net in her hand. Examining the grid-like pattern; turning the fibres this way and that. Her slim fingers traced the rows of tight knots, and Tino wondered what it would feel like to have those fingers run down his spine.
The stand was near the back of the flea-market, wedged between a crumbling brick wall and another stand where a young woman was selling tie-dyed pants. The sign above it read “Edna Lewis’ Yes/No box. Your questions answered”.
Below that, someone had taped a piece of cardboard with the words “Closing down: All answers half price. Today only!” handwritten in red marker.
I was intrigued, so I stepped up to the stand. An old bald man with a thick, almost white beard looked up from his book.
“Can I help you?” he asked, with a slight Dutch accent.
“What’s this about?” I asked, pointing at his box, the sign.
He reached below the desk and pulled out a box, jet black, about the size of a biscuit tin.
“You give me 50c,” he said, “then you ask your question here.” He pointed to a small protrusion on the side of the box. A microphone, I guessed.
“Then,” he continued, “if the question has a yes or no answer, one of these two lights will blink.” He pointed at a green and red light in turn. “Green for yes, red for no.”
“And it’ll give me the right answer?”
“Yes. Yes,” he said, sharply.
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
For this edition of SQ Mag, I went in search of the newest releases to kick off 2017. I found the beginning of the new dystopian sci-fi Finding Paradise series from author K.F. Breene. Though I anticipated diving into it, I found it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Fate of Perfection introduces us to a dreary futuristic world where humanity is controlled by conglomerates who breed the best of the best to handle their most important workings. The heroine, Millicent, is a physically perfect, exceedingly intelligent woman who is at the top of her game designing weapons systems for her conglomerate, Moxidone. She’s chosen to be bred via artificial insemination, knowing that her offspring will become the property of Moxidone. She soon finds out that the baby’s father is an equally perfect and muscle-bound head of security by the name of Ryker. The two of them grow closer due to his inborn instincts to protect her and the child. Read the rest of this entry
When a childhood prank lands his sister in trouble, Jaran starts along a path that he feels he cannot escape. Evil deeds seem to breed and Jaran is sure he is the cause. Sometimes you can never go home again. – SY
Jaran never forgot the first time he met evil. Not witnessed an evil act, not listened to the unkind gossip he heard the adults mutter when they thought he was sleeping, but saw the very substance of it. Evil in its raw, unrefined state. The kind of evil that only the Black Healers had the skill to extract.
That was the day Aliya turned fifteen. Jaran had contrived to ruin the new dress his sister wore, a gift from the village women to mark her coming of age. It was a fine dress, shimmering white like sunlight reflecting off a lake, and woven from the finest arachia threads painstakingly harvested a few strands at a time each morning while the dew still glistened.
The urge that drove him was more than jealousy, more than his resentment of Aliya’s firstborn privileges though he had no words to explain his feelings, not even to himself. He scraped moss and algae from beneath rotting branches in the forest, forming a little cake of green slime. It was a cruel choice. A splattering of mud might have washed out leaving no stain. But to Jaran that seemed a thing half done; a compromise.