Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Wolf and the Manticore, by Greg van Eekhout

★★★★★ A Slipstream Thriller in a Dog-Eat-Dog World

(Alternate Reality Dark Fantasy) Agnes works at the La Brea Tar Pits helping the Kingdom of Southern California make magical munitions, but she’s secretly spying for the Northern Californians. Unfortunately, someone has figured this out. (10,430 words; Time: 34m)

"The Wolf and the Manticore," by (edited by Gardner Dozois), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Review: 2018.649 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This story might properly be described as alternate history dark fantasy slipstream horror because it’s set in an alternate version of our world where magic is real but places in California still exist. It’s dark fantasy because although magic is real, but it seems wholly evil; nice as Sebastian is, he still gets his power by eating other people. It’s slipstream because it’s full of scenes that make you do a double take, like when they visit the three-headed wolf’s house, find fur all over the place, and mutter that he’s paid well enough to hire a housekeeper. And, of course, the horror elements speak for themselves.

Still, complicated as it is, it works beautifully. Agnes makes a very believable spy, and her spying missions add a good bit of tension, Sebastian comes across as a) a magic nerd b) a really nice guy c) deeply in love with Agnes. (The scene of him at the end, powerful as he’s become, telling the baby the spoon of food is an airplane, is precious.) The romance between the two of them happens naturally (as naturally as anything can happen in this tale) and we feel very happy for them at the end.

Con: Uh, isn’t Sebastian still having to eat people at work? No one cares about that anymore?

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Greg van Eekhout Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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