Thursday, May 22, 2008

Finishing Baen's with Fantasy

"Knight of Coins" by Margaret Ronald is a tarot-card based fantasy, which I usually enjoy. (Although not, I hasten to add, Piers Anthony's Tarot books. Those are just whacked.) In Ronald's story a man hires a private investigator (the second one in this issue) to track down three tarot cards that have been enchanted to curse his family. The PI has some magical talent, but hates magic and magical cases (of course). Luckily, "paying the rent" is always enough to motivate these hard-boiled protagonists, so the plot proceeds. Her dislike of magic is soon justified and things get complicated. It's another enjoyable story, nothing special.

"Red Tape and Cold Iron, or A Proposal for the Reintroduction of the Faery Folk To The United Kingdom" by Lucy Bond is a satirical story. A gullible politician agrees to let an activist government Folklorist gather up the denizens of Faery and get them back onto the British scene. The descriptions of the Folklorist are both funny and slightly sinister. It starts off by simply making government eco-do-gooders look ridiculous, which is not hard, but one gains some respect for the Folklorist by the end, with her cucumber sandwiches and her very practical brown boots. The moral of the story is to be on the lookout for all the agendas when one is dealing with government proposals. However, the ending is pretty abrupt. I would've liked some more detail about what happens when the Faery-folk finally cross over. Still, it's better to leave the reader wanting more, I suppose, compared to the alternative.

Finally, we close with a flat-out hilarious romp. "Extreme Reservations" by R. J. Ortega describes a man trying to continue the family business: running an inn and saloon out of an old paddle wheel river boat permanently moored in the Sacramento river delta in California. Just as he is coming to the conclusion that this business his uncle left him is simply not profitable, he finds out about a very unique annual engagement that his inn hosts. It's a gathering of immortals, both from legend (The Flying Dutchman) and story (John Carter, Ayesha, etc.). This is a classic homage-packed tale with a little bit of adventure and at least one truly awful, groan-out-loud pun. I have to admit, I love stories like this. It shamelessly appeals to the fan-girl in me, and this one is well done.

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