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Review of Challenging Destiny
Number 15, December 2002
This review is by David Price, from The Fix (Issue 6). It appears here with the permission of the editor/publisher.
Challenging Destiny is an attractive, glossy presentation from Canada. It has a leaning towards science fiction, but isn't a sf magazine per se. The opening story is 'Skins', by W.D. Glen, and tells of a man with a wild scheme to market 'living' tattoos. Harry is a thoroughly disagreeable character, so you wonder at the wimpish narrator's failure to 'challenge destiny' by running a mile from him. Of course, this is a surreal tale that creates its own logic, so you just have to go with the flow; but to manipulate the hapless narrator so completely, you'd expect Harry to be just a little bit charismatic. 'Primitive Thinking', by Jeff Dundas, is set in the Stone Age, and concerns the efforts of a caveman to create a language. To his detriment, he is completely misunderstood one day. It's very well told but the ending seems abrupt, and you end up feeling that the author could have taken it just a little further. Still, it is pleasing to note in Jeff's mini biography that 'he intends to keep writing while there is still lead in his pencil'. Whatever motivates you, I say. On the other side of the coin, 'Proper Names' by Ian Creasey is a laboured affair about a man's mission to name all the cities, plants and animals on a newly discovered planet. He is in conflict with his boss and there is an amusing encounter with a recalcitrant robot, but at nearly twenty pages it drags on too long, and the protagonist's final act of defiance is more of a childish gesture, than an actual challenging of destiny.
After an extensive review of the Alien films we come to the cream of the crop. 'The Beauty in the Beast', by K.G. McAbee, is the longest, and most satisfying read in the issue. A tale of high fantasy, it follows the misadventures of a boy called Erik after his father sells him to pay off a gambling debt. At first, he seems to have fallen on his feet. A coach takes him to a magnificent castle where he is pampered beyond his wildest dreams: the finest food, clothes, wines, the run of an extensive library, a number of servants to see to his every need. But of course, the equivalent of a wicked witch is waiting in the wings. Arraine Dubois, the lady of the manor, is a very sinister woman who wanders around in a silver mask. Wisely, young Erik starts looking over his shoulder, and finally discovers her dark secret. This is a spirited read from a lady who can tell a belting fantasy story, and is without doubt the stand-out tale in the issue. The final offering is 'Solitary', a futuristic melodrama about a convicted killer who gets an early release, but at a price: he is injected with a gadget that makes him empathic to other people's feelings. At first it is tolerable; he even starts to make a living as a counsellor. But as ever in these stories, the future is a pretty miserable place, and living with other people's angst proves even worse than his incarceration. This is a fascinating, and atmospheric tale in the style of Philip K. Dick.
All in all, this is an impressive issue, and it benefits from the services of some excellent artists, from the glorious full colour illustration on the cover, to the gallery of sf art (part two of three) in the last ten or so pages, some of which is quite exquisite. This is a glossy and professional presentation that still comes across as a labour of love. Fans of dark fantasy are sure to find something to please within its pages.
Challenging Destiny edited by David M Switzer: R.R. #6 St Marys, Ontario, Canada N4X 1C8. Digest, 130pp, Cn$7.50 (US $6.50) or Cn$24 (US$20) for four issues. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: http://home.golden.net/~csp/
Last modified: May 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 by The Fix and David Price
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