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Cirsova #4: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine (Volume 4) Paperback – November 15, 2016
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This issue is carried on the strength of “Lost Men”, “…Where There is No Sanctuary”, and “A Suit of Haidrah Skin”. Respectively, these represent a fantastic version of a grown up Peter Pan and two wonderful fantasy/sci-fi mashups that harken back to the best of the pulp adventures. “The Vault of Phalos” presents a wonderfully wrought investigation into a death cult that worships an a filth god with an unfortunately bland name, and “The Bubbcat” gives a straight near-future sci-fi tale that hums with an energy and joie-de-vivre that makes it a joy to read. These six tales alone make this issue of Cirsova well worth the price.
When you add in “The Lady of the Amorous City”, with its Arthurian/Lovecraftian mix, and a few stories that skirt the edge of excellence without quite crossing the line, you can forgive the inclusion of a few stinkers. Both “The Sands of Rubal-Khali” and “The Dust of Truth” are let down by odd choices in characterizations, but may appeal to those for whom the identity of the protagonists carries more weight that the overall quality of the story and writing.
No review of this issue of Cirsova Magazine would be complete without mentioning that it includes the third installment of James Hutchings’ jaw-dropping poetic retelling of “A Princess of Mars”. Like most Americans, my potential love of good poetry was strangled in the cradle by a bizarre affection among the ivory-tower types for opaque word craft, literary gimmickry, and a desire for to lip-biting and back of the hand to the forehead style “search for meaning”. Hutchings doesn’t let any of that get in the way of a great tale spun with adroit mastery of the form. His talent for poetry as a craft is damn near Kipling-esque. Sure, this work lacks Kipling’s insight into the human condition, but that’s not the point of the exercise, is it? The point is John Carter on Mars fighting for the Daughter of A Thousand Jedaks, man! The editor of this magazine knew what he was doing when he spread this story out over several issues, because this alone will keep me returning to Cirsova regardless of the quality of the rest of the stories.
Do yourself a favor and get the whole Cirsova collection for some amazing story telling in a nearly lost style.