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Esoteric City: 01/18/10
Back in October I decided to stop featuring a review from Fantasy & Science Fiction every Saturday. My schedule has gotten too busy to guarantee I'll have time to read and review a story every week. I have though been reading the magazines and writing the reviews as I do have time. The reviews are included in the master list from which I pick one or two reviews to post every day.
The final story in the August / Spetember 2009 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction is "Esoteric City" by Bruce Sterling. It is set in Turin, Italy, a city of wizards of black and white magic. It's also the city of the shroud, the grail and Dante's inferno.
Achille Occhietti by day is an engineer. By night he's a necromancer. He rubs elbows with Djoser, the mummified remains of a third dynasty Egyptian pharaoh. Djoser comes with a message, warning him that Lucifer has plans for him.
The bulk of the of story is the preparation for the show down with Lucifer. Djoser and Achille go on a quest through old Turin, layers of death right to Hell to come up with a plan. I loved Sterling's descriptions of Occhietti's walk through Hell and how each layer had its own timeline and its own populations.
After all the esoteric preparation Lucifer's meeting throws all the theories out. It calls into question what it means to be the Devil. It's a deliciously open-ended conclusion, perfect for this type of fantasy.