Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #160

BeneathCeaselessSkies_160This is either a very short issue or one that reads particularly fast, in any case it felt like I got through it in no time (might be due to me reading most of it while waiting for a train that was behind schedule).

The first story, “A Guest of the Cockroach Club” by M. Bennardo was somewhat on the “meh” side of things. Vaguely reminiscent of Lavie Tidhar’s fun Bookman series, here it is giant cockroaches secretly ruling the US rather than giant lizards openly ruling the British Empire. This story is completely lacking the flair of Bookman however, has a bland plot, bland characters and bland writing – by far the weakest story I have come across in that magazine so far (which I’ve subscribed to starting with Issue #157 and have greatly enjoyed so far).

The second story, “The Streetking” by Peter Hickman, is the shorter of the two (as seems to be tradition in this magazine) but is decidedly more fun. The basic plot is not terribly original, but this never gets to be a problem as it is so short and Hickman deftly compresses into a few pages what would have been sufficient plot for a novel. The two main characters, though only sketched, are rendered very strikingly and make an impression on the reader, but what makes the story stand out most is the writing – while Hickman is hardly the first to present a story written in rogue’s jargon, few manage to pull it off as successfully as he does here, and it’s the first person narrator’s voice which makes this story a joy to read.

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