It’s the review everyone’s been waiting for, of the magazine completely redefining the science fiction and fantasy short fiction market. For the general market – this comes out in September, but I kickstarted Cirsova and so I received an early copy. Hopefully I was able to scoop the first review as well. These stories harken back to a time where magazines like Amazing Stories, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, etc. were actually what people would pick up to find exciting, fresh adventure stories. I’ll briefly go over each story, then a summary:
“The Last Job on Harz” by Tyler Young
I”m already calling this the novelette of the year for 2017. A trilling adventure about two investigators sent to a world who have to deal with high tension corporate intrigue and strange genetically manipulated monsters. Great way to open the issue.
“Death on the Moon”, by Spencer Hart
The issue continues with investigators in a noir-style tale on the moon. It didn’t go full noir, but had a lot of that feeling, including some of the dialogue. I didn’t dislike it, but wasn’t as in love with this as I was the opening tale. A style thing that this may appeal to other folk more.
“The Battlefield of Keres” by Jim Breyfogle
Maybe my favorite short story of the issue. This had two very interesting protagonists on a hunt to go thieve a magical helm from an ancient battlefield. I’d gladly read more in this universe.
“Othan, Vandal”, by Kurt Magnus
Othan goes to steal a talisman from a tribe in order to pay off his debts, and find there’s more than meets the eye here. I particularly liked the character and this may be my second favorite short of the issue. Its ending was very satisfying to read as well.
“Temple of the Beast”, by Hal Thompson
Academics go out to find a legendary beast in an Indiana Jones-style adventure here. Solid work, pretty straight-forward.
“Tear Down the Stars”, by Adrian Cole
A nice follow up in Adrian Cole’s universe, probably the most developed of the stories worldbuilding wise because of the continuation. I’m not sure if this is direct from issue #2 or if there was one in between, but it was pleasant seeing the characters again. I think the original story had a bit more to it on the action thrill side, but this had a better concept, so it balanced out. Totally readable without the prior story, and was happy to see this world again.
“Magelords of Ruach”, by Abraham Strongjohn
This was another continuation story, which is supposed to be a trilogy of stories. It definitely had a Burroughs-esque feel to it with Martians fighting Neptunians and trying to escape from their world. I think I would have done better to have read the first story first, but still a fun ride after I settled into what was going on in the story.
My Name is John Carter, by James Hutchings
Continues the epic poem in honor of the classic series. If you’ve read past issues of the mag, you’ve seen this and it brings a smile to the face every time.
Overall, I’ve now read 4 issues of Cirsova: 1-2, 5-6. It’s obviously far and away the best science fiction magazine out there right now. It’s fun adventure 100%, and never wavers or apologizes for that. While I enjoyed issue 5, I wasn’t quite as into the dark Lovecraftian theme that the issue presented, even though they did a very different take than I see most people do when exploring that framework. This issue I devoured, it hit all the sweet spots. As I stated above, there was no bad story in the mix, just ones I liked more than others and probably just due to personal taste.
Frankly, this issue alone deserves to win a Hugo Award if best stories are the sole consideration. Cirsova has knocked it out of the park with perhaps their best issue to date.