Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cirsova Four, Part Four

With the release of the fifth issue of Cirsova looming on the horizon, I'd really better start moving on these story reviews.  My reading backlog isn't getting any smaller!

Lost Men

P. Alexander really doesn't care for your genre distinctions, and just to prove it (again), he follows a weird fantasy epic up with a curious retelling of the story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  Eugene L. Morgulis plays with the notion of a grown-up Peter Pan in a way that makes the film Hook look even worse by comparison than it does on its own.  This story is one of those curious cases of deconstruction done in a loving manner that takes nothing away from the original.  It is as much an homage as it is a deconstruction, and that's a neat trick.  This whimsical version of the classic might be one of my favorites from this issue.

...Where There Is No Sanctuary

Superficially, the plot of this story shares much with the earlier Cirsova tale, A Suit of Haidrah Skin.  Both feature a villainous wizard-astronaut(?) in a high tower-rocket(?) that needs to die to end his reign of terror.  Where Rob Lang went with a weird tales vibe and a far-flung, perhaps post-apocalyptic setting, here Howie K. Bentley uses a dark-age setting and feel to give it a much more mythic feel.  There are a couple of other parallels that are best left as an exercise for the reader, the better not to spoil any surprises.  The real take away here - the one well worth remembering - is that these two themes on the "assault the wizard's tower" plot demonstrate there are countless ways to tell the same story.  The real question is not whether a writer has re-used an old plot, but whether or not he has infused new life into that old plot, and this issue of Cirsova features two such instances. 

Dust of Truth

Joyce Frohn takes a 'barbarians raid the civilized lands to secure plunder' tale, rolls in a romantic angle that gives the plundering a more personal motivation, sprinkles it with a bit of first-use-of-gunpowder spice, then botches the story with a completely pointless gender swap.  The women in this tale act like men, and the men act like women.  That sort of swap can work, if there's a reason for it, and this story offers none.  Note that the complaint here isn't that 'girls can't be heroes'; this is the fifth such story in Cirsova, but it's the first instance of female protagonists that felt forced.  It's also the first in which the men act like cowering simps or stupid degenerates, and the first in which that message was delivered with all the subtlety of a hammer to the face.  It's a shame, really, the story itself had a lot of potential, but the awkward gender swap and expectation of an explanation for this world's role-reversals pulls the reader's attention away from the narrative.

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