Monday, September 25, 2017

On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts, by Richard Parks

Riverhome by Veli Nystrom
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(Chinese Historical Fantasy; Pan Bao and Jing) Pan Bao, his daughter Jing, and their snake-devil friend, Mei Li, encounter a ghost who needs help. They usually expect to be paid for their sorcery, but the ghost is very persistent. (7,226 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Exciting and Unexpectedly Moving

This story picks up almost immediately after the end of “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” but there’s no need to read that story to enjoy this one.

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 235, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: After all those ages, the little princess is finally laid to rest, and the evil Counselor finally gets his just desserts.

Beyond the superficial plot, Mei Li takes a step towards becoming human. More than that, she takes a step towards becoming a good person.

There’s a good bit of tension as they open the tomb because we know that there’s something not quite right about the little princess’s ghost. We have every reason to expect her to have been a lure and the tomb a trap. Tension builds right up to the moment when she says, “With the help of friends,” and pushes the sword into the Chancellor. Unexpectedly, the release of tension makes that a very emotional moment.

It’s also moving that the princess wants to give Mei Li a gift to commemorate her learning to identify evil. Mei Li alone emerged from the tomb with something of real value--not the trinket, but what it represents.

Jing quietly offering a little prayer for the lost princess ends the story on exactly the right note.

Con: Pan Bao and Jing are peripheral to the story; this is really Mei Li’s story.

The Chancellor has a good point. If they are so easily trapped—even three against one, and one of them a snake-devil—how did they live so long?

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 235)
Richard Parks Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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