Monday, September 9, 2019

Birthday Review: Stories of Tony Pi

Today is the birthday of Canadian writer Tony Pi, whose work I have enjoyed for the past decade or more. Here's a set of my reviews of his short fiction for Locus:

Review of Writers of the Future XXIII (Locus, November 2007)

Tony Pi’s “The Stone Cipher” has one of the wildest ideas: statues around the world begin to move, apparently in unison, but very slowly. The story is in the end an ecological message – but a bit too long and with not quite plausible leads.

Locus, January 2008

At the fourth quarter issue of Abyss and Apex I quite enjoyed a long novelette from Tony Pi, “Metamorphoses in Amber”. It’s about a group of immortals who can use amber to facilitate such things as healing and shape-changing (within limits). The narrator, Flea is trying to steal a Faberge egg from the Mantis, another immortal. Flea and Mantis have long been rivals – for example, they were once Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, respectively. He steals the egg, but something goes wrong in his escape, and he finds himself becoming female – an irreversible metamorphosis that happens to the immortals for reasons they don’t understand. His search for a cure leads him to the Amber Room, and a very special piece of amber. Colorful and different adventure.

Locus, April 2009

In Ages of Wonder Tony Pi’s “Sphinx!” is a delight, set in a quite alternate history, in which the land of Ys is threatened by a sphinx that a film maker has apparently revived for a new movie. But other things are going on – most notably, perhaps, the jealousy of the movie’s director about his young wife, the movie’s star.

Locus, May 2009

Tony Pi’s “Silk and Shadows” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2/26) is a fine romantic fantasy, about Dominin, who has at last prevailed in battle against the Stormlord who killed his father. But the victory came at a price: a deal with the notoriously treacherous witch Anansya. Dominin has also fallen in love with Anansya’s apprentice Selenja, and that may make the eventual price even higher. All is resolved imaginatively in a well-enacted magical puppet show.

Locus, July 2009

The Spring On Spec has finally arrived, with nice pieces from Jack Skillingstead and Tony Pi. ... Pi’s “Come-From-Aways” is about a linguistics professor in Newfoundland who risks her career – and eventually much more – when she decides that a strange shipwrecked man is really the 11th Century Welsh Prince Madoc.

Locus, May 2010

Alembical 2 is the second in a series of anthologies of novellas... Best is probably “The Paragon Lure”, by Tony Pi, one of several stories he’s written about a group of shapechanging immortals – here the story revolves around a mysterious pearl, and Elizabeth I – and while at times its just a bit too preposterous it moves nicely and is quite a lot of fun.

Locus, May 2014

I haven't mentioned the venerable Canadian magazine On Spec in a while. It continues to produce enjoyable issues. In Winter 2013/2104 I particularly liked Tony Pi's “The Marotte”, a Russian-flavored fantasy about a sorcerer who is judicially murdered by the Patriarch, but who survives in the jester's “marotte” (a stick-puppet), and is able to work with the jester to try to save his beloved Tsarina from the Patriarch's plots;

Locus, November 2014

The September 4 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two fine entertainments. “No Sweeter Art”, by Tony Pi, is another story of Ao, the candy magician. Ao is engaged by the local magistrate to protect him against a suspected assassination attempt at a Riddle duel. The magistrate is an expert riddle maker. Pi nicely intertwines Ao's ability – to make candy creatures and inhabit them remotely – with a good look at the riddle contest,  with dangerous encounters with the gods of the Chinese Zodiac, and with serious concerns about the morality of killing even bad people.

Locus, June 2016

In Beneath Ceaseless Skies I found ... “The Sweetest Skill”, by Tony Pi, his latest story of Ao, whose magic is entwined with “the sweetest skill”: candymaking. In this entry he is charged by Tiger to save the Pale Tigress, guardian of Chengdu, who has been attacked by the Ten Crows gang. Straightforward enough, if hardly easy – but then Dog and Pig get involved, with ramifications, no doubt, for future stories in what’s become a quite enjoyable series.

Locus, June 2017

I quite enjoyed stories in the two April issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. In April 27 we get the latest of Tony Pi’s ongoing and very entertaining series about Tangren Ao, a sugar shaper who uses the magic in his candy animals to help people, often at the behest of the animal spirits of the zodiac. In “That Lingering Sweetness” he encounters a pair of curses in a stolen box of tea intended for the Emperor that has somehow fetched up at a local teashop. He must negotiate with Monkey and Goat, who have set the conflicting curses, and at the same time try to find a way to clean up some of the messes resulting from his earlier adventure. Fun stuff.

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