Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The City of Lost Desire, by Phyllis Eisenstein

[F&SF]
★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(SF Fantasy; Alaric the Minstrel) Alaric’s caravan arrives at an ancient western city which seems to be falling apart while the ruling classes dope themselves up on drugs. (25,722 words; Time: 1h:25m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

Although the Alaric series dates back to 1971, this installment is perfectly readable on its own. Sadly, most of the prior episodes are either out of print or were never collected, and none but the most recent is available for eBooks.

"The City of Lost Desire," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 01-02|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.036 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The overarching metaphor for the story is the songs about the tower in which the hero fights his way to the top only to find the princess is a skeleton and/or the treasure isn’t real.

The irony is that Alaric isn’t really trying to climb to the top—he’s being pushed—but the consequences are the same: the princess wants to get rid of him, the treasure is a drug that promises to make you a god but really destroys your life, and the occupant at the top of the actual tower is an ancient, half-crazy entity (magical AI?) that has watched the civilization it was meant to support fall into dust and be forgotten.

Con: Alaric’s special abilities (including being king of some dead city) seem to be too powerful and too convenient. E.g. he teleports to the top of the tower and the machine (or spirit) accepts him as king right on the spot.

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Phyllis Eisenstein Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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