There’s something about words in ancient Greek that gives you a feeling of timelessness and age, and since the word, Aeon, means “An immeasurable period of time,” I was curious whether this PDF issue of Aeon, edited by Marti McKenna and Bridget McKenna, could live up to the promise such a word brings with it. The cover features artwork by Alan M. Clark, titled “Cell Wall with Hormones,” that makes you feel like you’re looking at an alien landscape, a universe inside a universe.
So let’s see what’s in this universe:
After a non-fiction article and editorial (both of which are deserving of a read) the meat of the magazine begins with short story “Garuda Bird” by Tom Doyle. “Princess” Madhu gets visited in her bedroom by the god, Vishnu, who rides the Garuda Bird. Of course, Madhu is not a princess, only the daughter of the Prime Minister; “Vishnu” is just a lonely soldier named Vijay who seeks to declare his love for her in the form of a story, and the “Garuda Bird” is a trans-dimensional flying machine. Together, they weave for each other a grand epic tale reminiscent of the ancient myths combined with near-future technology, an amalgam of ancient and new.
Doyle brings a sense of humor to the story (“Come on, Vijay, this isn’t the Mahabharata. Get a move on.”) that adds to the enjoyment. While the story shifts back and forth between Madhu’s version and Vijay’s, Doyle handled the technique well enough to not make me grit my teeth, and the combination of the two makes the story all the more entertaining. A worthy read for both SF and fantasy enthusiasts.
In “You Will Go On” by Jay Lake, a man falls through an open ceiling inside God’s House to be found and befriended by the Hunt Group, a tribe of humans who live there. There are some points of humor in this touching story about a man determined to finish the work he began, and the plot twist at the end made me slap my forehead. This story will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve read it.
Earth is now inhabited by amphibious aliens in “Henry and the Martha” by Ken Rand, and the human race is no more—except for two who are the star attractions of an exhibit: Henry and Martha. Only Martha is now dead at the hands of an insane Henry. A-nan and E-gar, the two responsible for the care of the humans, must think of some way to fix the situation or be Disposed.
Rand displays a warped sense of humor in this SF tale, but a humor that leaves you pondering the meaning of human nature as well as the ways humans interact with what they consider lesser species. Those who find certain forms of humor distasteful may not enjoy this story, but demented minds like mine will get the punchline.
In “Wallamellon” by Nisi Shawl, four children find four watermelons that are not yet ripe. According to Mercy, the watermelons came from the Blue Lady. But who is this “Blue Lady”? Oneida, the heroine of the tale, may soon find out. Oneida is a smart, curious girl who understands the importance of responsibility and correct grammar, and it is these qualities that make her the perfect heroine to admire no matter your age. The story revolves around a basic truth that many of us tend to forget when we become adults: that magic and childhood are the same, and if you lose the ability see the world with childlike eyes, you lose the magic.
I never read any of Shawl’s work before, and during the first couple pages I was skeptic about whether or not she held the magic to keep my interest. Well, Ms. Shawl, you made this skeptic into a believer.
After a thought-provoking non-fiction article titled “Space Invaders” by Dr. Rob Furey comes “The Wrong End of the Stick” by Jeremy Minton. This story about the cause-and-effect of probability manipulation will leave you laughing long after you finish reading. Minton’s witty style hooks you from the start as the story opens with the protagonist held at gunpoint on his way to his apartment. In addition to the humor, the story also delivers an important message: that success comes less from “good” luck and more from the ability to turn bad luck around to your advantage.
“Angels of War” by Dev Agarwal, is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth following a war with the Salusa: a race created by humans and designed for high intelligence. This novelette of politics and espionage is full of action, suspense, and mystery. It suffers from too much description—way too many destroyed buildings described—and you have to read through two whole pages before anything even happens beyond the protagonist, Fenner, walking from one scene to the next. Once you endure those two pages, however, Agarwal repays your patience with a tale full of twists that leaves the reader guessing what will happen next. Overall, it’s worth a read if you have extra time on your hands.
In “Just Chutney” by E. Sedia, we get to see a brief moment of what Cain’s cursed life is like long after he murdered his brother. While I normally dislike stories where almost nothing happens, this one makes an exception, if only because the “action” is window dressing for the real, emotional, conflict beneath. Sedia explores the theme of regret and sorrow in a way that makes this story a worthy read. Now where’d I set my plate of lamb chops?