Speculative Fiction Reviews
An Occasional Review Journal

You've probably noticed there are no new reviews here. I simply haven't time for reviewing and writing recently, and reviewing has had to go. For now, this journal is closed. Apologies.

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Lone Star Stories, October 2004

The Ninth Arrest, by Barth Anderson

Barth Anderson's The Ninth Arrest tells a version of the story of Jesus' last week. Here Jesus is caught in a Groundhog Day loop, reliving the last week until he can make one of his disciples understand what the Messiah really is. The loop has been caused by Jesus' mistake of entering Jerusalem in the trappings of the Messiah, and thus causing the population and his disciples to view him as the liberator of Palestine. Rather predictably, the one true, intelligent, loyal disciple here is Judas while the others are venal, stupid, and violent.

Anderson's story is superbly written, well-researched, fleshed out with believable detail, and weaves in several of the myths surrounding Jesus. But despite this, the core of the story--the truth about what the Messiah really is--seems no more than a new age vacuity. As such, this story is a glorious structure with a rather hollow heart. It would no doubt poke a few holes in some of the more earnest literalist Christians, if they were to read it. Other than that, it is hard to see what exactly the story is for.

Other than that criticism, this is an excellent story told with passion and skill. A hit for Lone Star Stories

Friday Night Gods, by Josh Rountree

By contrast with Anderson's philosophical and weighty piece, Josh Rountree produces a story that is both fun and funny. Two teams prepare for the final play of a Friday night football game. In the stands, the teams' supporters try to cheer on their team and interfere with their opponents, not just with chants and catcalls, but with magic and bloody sacrifices. Behind them, their vicious gods whip them on.

I would be the first to admit that I know almost nothing about American football, but even I enjoyed the parallels between the magical interventions and motivations and the behaviour of a mundane sporting crowd. Friday Night Gods is fast, engaging, and quick-witted, and leavens the more serious stories that it is sandwiched by.

In my review of the last issue of Lone Star Stories I was impressed with the general quality of the stories. With this issue, though, the magazine appears to have made a distinct step up. The stories in this issue are certainly on a par to what you would expect in, say, Strange Horizons. Both of the stories I've reviewed should be must-reads.

In addition to the two original stories, there is another Steven Utley reprint, Die Rache. In this, the last surviving Nazi soldier is executed again and again, in another Groundhog Day style loop, but in this one there is no way out. I'm not sure whether there was deliberate intent in pairing this with Anderson's The Ninth Arrest or whether it was coincidence. I've decided not review reprints, so I leave you to read this one yourselves.

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