StoryHack Action & Adventure Issue 6 – Kindle Edition (emag review).

June 10, 2020 | By | Reply More

Here be stories. ‘Rakes And The Pirates Of Malabar’ is by Mike Adamson, whose stuff I’ve read before and like, especially his novella ‘Last Train To Deakin Valley’. Here, he’s in pulp mode with a ripping yarn set in 19th century India. Edgar Quincannon Rakes is a former soldier heading back to England but, having missed the main fleet of the East India company, he takes passage on a smaller local vessel. Pirates attack and he’s recruited by Princess Adhira, formerly of Ghondakhor. Her father has been overthrown and she wants her kingdom back. Lots of derring-do and Adamson gets the old pulp style just right. I thought the hero’s plan went a bit too smoothly and an extra twist of treachery might have helped but it was good enough.

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‘The Boss’s Tale’ by John Mollison is part five of a gangster story being told over and over from the viewpoint of different characters. For this final instalment, we see how it looks to O’Reilly, ostensibly boss of the nightclub/speakeasy that bears his name but actually in service to ‘Arctic’ Aidan MacArralt and thoroughly sick of his life. He also has to put up with professional gambler Mike Battista, a small-time crook Manny the Mouth, pretty card dealer Dawn Rising and beautiful, scheming torch singer Scarlett Greene. The exotic cast and an excellent plot make this highly entertaining and it would be good to see all five parts released in a single collection.

‘The Girl Who Sang In The Country Of Morning’ by Cynthia Ward is a Native American tale in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic wild west setting. In the midst of a terrible drought, Felissa goes out hunting with her raptor (a bird, not a dinosaur) and is set upon by a band of outlaws. It’s a good adventure story with, oddly for ‘Storyhack’, a trendy message at the end.

‘Due A Hanging’ by David Skinner is a Martian story where the settlers, in the tradition of Heinlein, wear guns and take care of themselves. The Solar Federation makes laws and is trying to replace the local paper currency with digital but rebellious old settlers still go their own way in many things. Lovely Day, Happy Day and Joyous Day are identical triplets, all beautiful (‘curls and curves’) who secretly lived a single life as Anya Day. Joyous is now dead and Happy has disappeared. Lovely’s new boyfriend Hamlin Becker investigates and ends up on The Red Satchel, a VIP party space yacht bound for an illegal landing in a Martian Canal. A complicated plot with a lot of double-crossing varmints up to no good. The story is set on a 1950s SF version of Mars rather than the dreary landscape we know it now to be. There exists a whole book of such yarns, ‘Old Mars’ edited by George R.R. Martin on my to-read list.

Moving on: Alexander Courtley is a wicked old man in wicked old Victorian London where children have been disappearing from Hyde Park. ‘Our Friend In The Cellar’ starts with him being called to meet a pair of returned ruffians he sent on a mission earlier that evening. His daughter waylays him to say that their friend in the cellar is keeping her awake. This developed into an intriguing piece of horror with a substantial backstory and a rollicking pace. The hero appears half-way through and then it all switches to his point of view until near the end. ‘Storyhack’ stories do not stick to the ‘rules’ of modern fiction, but who cares? This had the dynamism and flair of a good yarn by Joe R. Lansdale and, like him, author Matt Spencer may have made it up as he went along.

‘The Life Price’ by John D. Payne is about a nice young lad learning the ways of the world. Malcolm is the servant to Kumalo, a sellsword. Lately, they rescued Elke, a warrior woman who carries a ruby set in a silver pendant known as the Heart of Siobhan, robbed from a grave. Menaced by some unseen presence, they seek aid in the town of Fat Neck but magic and treachery complicate their fate and, when an innocent girl dies, there’s a price to be paid. A readable, well-plotted fantasy adventure and the characters and background are probably good for several more yarns.

‘Southwest Monsoon’ is an adventure set in the grand canyon where park rangers set out to rescue a little girl kidnapped by her crazy mother, just out of jail. It’s the second story featuring heroic ranger Abby Baxter. The geography and climate of the grand canyon setting provide many opportunities to test our heroes mettle. Somehow, this had the feel of a television episode. A good one.

Storyhack issue 6’ concludes with ‘Waterways’ by Lindsey Duncan. Kelithia is plunged into the sacred pool by her mother, a priestess of Ilnenli, where she is assaulted by a thousand memories not her own. The reader is plunged straight into a fantasy world where Byrandans have conquered the city of Aunasi and refuse to let the dead be returned to the sacred pool where their experiences are preserved. For only the Reflected can absorb the memories and the Byrandans have no one with that ability. Indeed, Byrandans are the only humans without magic of any kind and conquer other civilisations to absorb theirs. Kel’s father was Byrnadan but, through her mother, she has inherited the magic of the Reflected and hopes this will make her valuable. But which side is she on? A romantic adventure with a sort of super-hero feel because the Reflected have different powers. Complete in itself but could easily be the first chapter of a novel.

Storyhack’ continues its mission to publish old-fashioned adventure stories that people might actually want to read for fun.

Eamonn Murphy

May 2020

(pub: Story Hack. 227 page e-magazine. File size: 5836 KB. Price: $ 4.06 (US), £ 3.22 (UK). ASIN: B086MKRY3W)

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Category: Magazines, Scifi

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