Zine reviews -- Horizon 1-10

Horizon 1+8

Horizon 2

Horizon 3

Horizon 4

Horizon 5

Horizon 6

Horizon 7

Horizon 9

Horizon 10

Horizon 1+8

(July 1990 combined reprint, A5)

This is a combined reprint of volumes 1 and 8. However, there are only 6 stories in this reprint, and the zine database listings for the original zines indicate 4 in volume 1 and 4 in volume 8. The missing stories are listed as follows in the zine database entry for Volume 1:

Paul Mark Tamms, "Goodnight, Mr. Vila!" (S2; V)

C. S. Armitage, "Sam's Story" (S2; Citizen Smith crossover; humor)

The combined reprint also has new artwork. There's a lot of art in this volume, ranging from average to very nice indeed. I'm particularly taken with Fliss Davies' portrait of Avon on page 128, and not just because it appears to be based on one of the publicity stills from Aftermath where he's wearing that black silk shirt with the open neck.

I didn't like everything in this zine, but thought it worthwhile overall.

Eclipse - Sharon Eckman

I didn't like this to begin with - the characterisation seemed off to me. There turned out to be a good in-story reason for this... Aliens are manipulating the human crew of _Liberator_ as part of a psychology study. They are eventually driven off, but not without leaving damage behind them. For me this one fell into the category "has potential and I'd like to read this author when she's more experienced". In fact, I _have_ seen later work by this author, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This one's worth reading but not worth chasing after.

Life-Watch - Pamela Wright

After Deathwatch, there's one last thing Del Tarrant can do for Deeta - pretend to be Deeta for the day or two before Deeta's wife gives birth. Tender h/c story, well written. I liked this one a lot. Highly recommended for the Tarrant Nostra in particular.

Deja Vu - Val Leibson

A piece of silliness in which Avon and Vila get sucked into the brain of Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Avon relives his past. Whether it's funny depends very much on personal taste, but it's only five pages of text, plus two pages with a couple of decent cartoons, so it doesn't take up much space.

Possible Futures Part 2 - Ros Williams

I'm sorry, but I can't face reading this one at the moment. There are 70 pages in part 1 (in Horizon 7) and 44 pages in Part 2, and I know by now that there's a high probability that I will regret having spent the time reading anything by this author... Those who do like her style will just have to assess the story for themselves.

Just Another Day - Dorothy Davies

Short story from the viewpoint of one of the people Blake helps. A young woman in a rebel group has been disfigured during a raid, and Blake offers her plastic surgery. Sweet without being overly sentimental, and a nice look at how Blake and his crew look to other people.

Seeds of Legend - Judith M Seaman

The third season crew is looking for a defunct Federation supply base in the hope that it will still have useful supplies to raid. Avon tries logic to work out where the camouflaged base must be, Tarrant tries going down to the planet to talk to the locals, with varying degrees of success. This being a Judith Seaman story, it's Avon who has the greater degree of success. Being a third season story, it's safe for Blake fans to read. I enjoyed this one.

Horizon 2

(Original A4 edition) An early zine, and it shows it - the authors, and editors, haven't had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. The only art in the original edition is the Liberator on the front cover.

Enter Prometheus - Ewan Haggarty

I don't know whether it's supposed to be a parody or not... A number of technical flaws, not least the inability to walk the line between lush description and purple prose, or at least decide which side to stay on. The characterisations are badly off as well. However, it's an early fanfic look at one of the strengths of B7 - the villains see themselves as the good guys - and the writer shows promise.

Of a Kind... - Christine Knowles

A lovely piece of Travis h/c. Freedom City post-Gambit, and Travis is considering his options. They're a bit limited, given that his cybernetic arm doesn't work and his shoulder is infected (so technically AU post-Gambit). Then he meets someone who's willing to help... Excellent story, with a good original character whose motives are plausible rather than in the realms of Mary-Sue. I recommend this one to the members of FinalAct.

A Niche in Time - Helen West

Someone should have taken this author's thesaurus away . The very first sentence includes "jibed Vila", and there are another seven different dialogue attributions, including the delightful "interjected Jenna", before we get to someone who simply said something. That aside, it's a lightweight but entertaining look at Avon, Vila and Jenna coping with one of Orac's little pranks. They've been sent back in time to 1980, and get to spend the evening in a disco and then MacDonalds.

Later Than You Think - Eileen Duffield

Vignette in which Vila unknowingly meets a ghost.

Companionship - Heidi Dennis

There's a stowaway on Liberator. A stowaway with long red hair, violet eyes, long long legs that are barely covered by a skimpy skirt, high intelligence, and she's the daughter of the man who designed the Liberator. She can operate the ship better than the crew can, she can rescue them single-handed. Her name is Em Zephyr, but it should be Em Sue. That's Em for Mary, as in Mary Sue. I forced myself to read all 55 pages in the hope that things would improve. They didn't. Avoid.

In essence, one short story that demonstrates how a Mary Sue character can be handled well, one novella that demonstrates the opposite, and some so-so stories. Unfortunately the Mary Sue novella constitutes two thirds of the zine, and the only story worth buying the zine for is only eight pages long. Worth getting if you can pick it up cheaply second-hand.

Horizon 3

(1996 digest format reprint)

This one contains two novellas, and the digest reprint has been typeset and contains interior art. I know at least some of the art wasn't in the original A4 printing, as it was drawn in 1993, so presumably Horizon took the opportunity to add interior art when the early zines went through type-setting and layout for the new A5 digest editions. I'm glad they did, as there's some nice art in this one. My particular favourites are Val Westall's Avon on p54 and Richard Farrell's Tarrant on p74.

The Last Planet - Judith M Seaman

A Judith Seaman story that's safe for a Blake fan to read:-) Avon and Servalan are stranded on a desert planet, dependent on each other and the small rebel colony on the planet for their survival. Avon has been badly injured, and the emotional link he has with Servalan is one of the things keeping him alive. Avon's need for Servalan is one of the things keeping *her* alive. The set-up for this scenario is well-written, and the characterisation is excellent. Lovely uc A/Se relationship, lots of good Avon h/c with Servalan as the comforter. And at the end we have one of the major themes of Blake's 7 - trust, and the keeping or betrayal thereof.

The Heinan Affair - Heidi Dennis

S3 action-adventure McGuffin hunt, with Tarrant getting a good share of the limelight. I thought the ocf was more than a tad Mary-Sue, but I read this zine straight after Horizon 2, which contained a long, tedious, shameless Mary-Sue by the same author, so I may just have been more inclined to see M-S while reading this one.

I loved the Judith Seaman story, and thought the other novella readable. I'd recommend the zine.

Horizon 4

No outstanding stories, but not a waste of money.

Oblivion - Judith M Seaman

Hmm. I want to like this story, I really do, but... It's set on the Liberator, with the third season crew. And yet it's set after Terminal. Not just a slip of the pen, but frequent mentions of Terminal, significant to the plot. While I have no intrinsic objection to AU stories that play fast and loose with the timeline, I prefer this to be stated up front unless there are good spoilerish reasons not to, and there aren't in this case. I found it very off-putting. Added to this, it's a third season version of Tarrant, one who's trying to take the ship away from Avon, and a particularly nasty one at that. I was getting a feeling of Tarrant being put down to make Avon look better in comparison. I don't think the Tarrant Nostra would like this one.

Other than that, it's an entertaining little story of the crew coming across a brutalised man who might or might not be Blake, and having to deal with the problems of identification while handling their own little problems of plague loose aboard the ship. I disliked the story, but those with different prejudices might enjoy it.

Destiny - J Hawley

Part 1 of the Dorian trilogy. This one provides a backstory for Dorian, and there are some nice concepts in the story. Unfortunately, the first half of the story is in flashback with a great deal of telling rather than showing, making it less interesting to read than it might have been, but it's worth perservering with.

Flashback - J Hawley

Part 2 of the Dorian trilogy. Soolin's backstory this time. Good suggestions about exactly how Soolin learnt her gunslinger skills from the man she intended to kill, and how she became involved with Dorian. The author's technical skills have improved with this one.

Child's Play - Heidi Dennis

The crew are stranded on a planet where the things they imagine can become real. The creature responsible is lonely, and doesn't want to let them go. It's a staple SF plot, but pleasantly done.

Average zine, but not a waste of money.

Horizon 5

(original A4 edition)

The stories are of variable quality, but as usual with Horizon zines, it's cheap enough not to matter much if you only like half the stories.

Epilogue - Helen Pitt

Avon and Anna demonstrate that using scraps of information about the future to cheat fate can bring about the very doom you were trying to evade. I liked the use of the time travel paradox, but the ending of the story is a clumsy attempt to push S4 Avon into revealing his hidden feelings for his fellow crew members.

The Price of Knowledge - Jeannette Hawley

Final part of the Dorian Trilogy. Pre-Rescue, Dorian and Soolin go looking for a former associate of Dorian's who has stolen confidential information, with Dorian having to conceal from Soolin exactly what the information is. Could use some polishing, but it's good to see a story about Dorian himself, rather than his interaction with the remnants of the Liberator crew.

Sentence - Judith M Seaman

The third season crew have a break on an uninhabited planet, and bring back an odd little ball. Then one by one the crew start experiencing hallucinations that knock them unconscious, and the race is on to reverse it. Well-written story, and a delightful bit of Avon characterisation at the end.

Brotherly Love - Heidi Dennis

Tarrant rescues the only survivor from a damaged ship, a pilot who turns out to be Deeta's ex-lover. Bluff and double-bluff ensue as Avon sees a chance for inside information on military freight carried in civilian ships - *if* the pilot isn't a planted spy. Still more Mary-Sue from this author, although more readable than the one in Volume 2.

Encore - Helen Pitt & Mary Moulden

The crew are brainwashed after Gauda Prime, turning them into good little citizens. Twenty years later a chance encounter at a double-booked conference centre results in them remembering who they were, with entertaining results. I was far too busy giggling to notice the logical flaws in the story the first time through. Lots of fun, and I loved the job Servalan had put Avon to work at.

Reprieved/Condemned - Wendy Ingle

Cally was in a deep coma after the explosions on Terminal, and after the departure of Scorpio she revives just enough to put out a telepathic call for help. Jenna has finally managed to locate the Liberator and caught up just in time to see it destroyed. Will she hear the call or not? An interesting variant on the theme of Cally's possible rescue from Terminal, but the ending falls a little flat.

Horizon 6

Some excellent stories and nothing that was appallingly bad. I'd recommend this zine.

There are several pieces of art and two cartoons - reasonable but nothing outstanding. My favourite was a pencil portrait by Kay Wallace, which is actually of Paul Darrow rather than Avon - it's taken from a publicity shot of the actor rather than the character, and it shows:-)

Footnote to history - Helen Pitt

Servalan is planning a double bluff with an operation that can enhance intelligence. The story is somewhat marred by plot holes and the occasional slip in characterisation and continuity with the series - I found these rather distracting, even though they're to be expected in a story written before videos of the series were widely available. Some interesting ideas, and the story's worth reading in spite of the flaws.

Of a hero - David G Bell

Cally has a series of dreams showing her that Avon's behaviour will lead him to indirectly cause her death and Zen's, and to murder Blake. Are the dreams genuine premonitions, and even if they are, can she prevent them coming true without having to kill Avon? I'm not entirely convinced by how readily some of the crew turn against Avon, but this story takes a nicely hard-edged look at the dilemma of prophecy.

Interval - Judith M Seaman

Thoroughly entertaining story in which the third season crew attempt to escape the clutches of an enemy even more deadly than the Federation - the BBC in pursuit of a fourth series. One of the best Real World/Federation crossovers I've seen.

Inheritance - Mary Moulden

20 years after Gauda Prime, President Servalan is dying. Her last wish - to see Avon die before she does. Her daughter promises to fulfil that wish. Wonderfully written story, with both an action/adventure strand and a good exploration of character interaction.

A day by the sea - Wendy Ingle

Soolin and Vila explore a concealed area of Xenon base, and end up getting washed out to sea. Nothing much happens in the story, but it's competently written.

Stowaway - Margaret Scroggs

Fourth series Vila rescues a runaway orphan. Avon finds the orphan a safe place to stay, but as always his motives are mixed. Reasonable but nothing special. Notable for the author having remembered that the Scorpio had no separate living quarters when the crew first took over, and specifically mentioning that they have since installed crew quarters in one of the cargo holds. I've seen far too many stories by authors who thought the Scorpio was as big as the Liberator...

Horizon 7

70 of the 94 pages are taken up by part 1 of a story by an author whose work I generally don't like. I know that others do like her work, so whether this zine is worth the money depends on which stories you're likely to enjoy.

Art - portraits of Blake, Avon, Vila and Servalan, and an ASCII image of Cally. All reasonable, nothing outstanding.

Possible Futures Part 1 - Ros Williams

I'm sorry, but I can't face reading this one at the moment. There are 70 pages in part 1 and 44 pages in Part 2 (in volume 8), and I know by now that there's a high probability that I will regret having spent the time reading anything by this author... Those who do like her style will just have to assess the story for themselves.

Of a Heroine - Anne Godfrey

Riposte to "Of a Hero" in the previous volume. In an AU series 4, Cally discovers that escaping one fate may lead you into a worse. Short, nasty and well-written. I just wish that the usually good editing had caught the misuse of its/it's.

Time's Waste - Felicity Millerd

Monologue from Vila about how he survived Gauda Prime, what he's spent the last year doing, and what he's going to do next. Excellent Vila voice, and a lovely description of the relationship between Avon and Vila.

Alone and Silent - Kathryn Cutmore

The crew of an alien spaceship are desperate for assistance in repairing their computers, and abduct Avon. Except that they only abduct his mind. While they don't mean any harm, and return Avon when he's finished the job, the total isolation he experiences is difficult to deal with. His experiences make it easier for him to understand what Cally is going through with a non-telepath crew.

Nice concept, but one gaping plothole - the aliens abduct Avon because the failure of their control systems has left them in non-corporeal form, so they can't fix it themselves. But if only Avon's mind has been taken, surely he's going to have the same problem? Aside from that, I enjoyed the story.

Horizon 9

(2nd print run, 1988)

A5 zine, 96 pages, card cover. Physically well produced, although the print is photo-reduced and those with reading glasses will need to use them. Nice artwork by a variety of artists, and reproduction on most of the art is good.

Captivity - Mary Moulden

S3 action-adventure, with Cally captured by the Federation; Avon and Tarrant deciding that they need specialist skills to rescue her, and trying to retrieve Del Grant from a prison planet; and Dayna and Vila trying to keep the Liberator intact long enough for them to do so. Nothing outstanding, but a good solid story, and a believable reason for bringing back a favourite guest character.

Flight to Destiny - Margaret Scroggs

A version of what happened to Blake and Jenna after they abandoned ship during the battle at Star One. Believable original characters and a plausible story, although it conflicts with Zen's report that he has heard from Blake after the battle.

A Place in the Country - Ruth Balmer

S3 Avon decides that he wants to retire from rebelling. He eventually finds that retirement is boring, and the others find that they can't manage without him. I don't actually find either aspect all that plausible - there's a touch of Avon Ubermensch about this story, and the story isn't entertaining enough to carry it. However, the story's readable.

Terminal - An Epilogue - Lee Steadman

Oh no, it's another Avon finds Cally's not-quite-dead body... Actually, this one's not bad, and it's short (5 pages), so even if you can't bear to ever read another Avon-finds-Cally's-body, it doesn't take up much of the zine.

The Rain Land - Felicity Millerd

PGP novella, with Vila just trying to stay alive, in the company of an Avon whose attitude to staying alive is somewhat variable. The main plot point, that they encounter Avon's brother by chance, and find shelter with him, required some suspension of disbelief on my part. I liked the story, but it may not be to everyone's taste.

Overall, there are some good stories in this zine and no outright duds, plus several excellent pieces of art. Recommended.

Horizon 10

As usual with later Horizon zines, some nice artwork, although nothing outstanding enough to be worth buying the zine for if none of the stories appeal.

I utterly loathed one of the stories in this volume, and unfortunately it's the longest one, fully half the page count. Another long story isn't really enjoyable if you're not familiar with the material being parodied. The remaining stories are good, but only about a quarter of the page count in total, and I don't think any are "must haves".

The Power and the Glory - Helen Pitt

Blake-bashing *and* Travis-bashing in one story... If you think that Blake is a crazed fanatic who is intent on ruling the Federation, regardless of the cost to others, you may well enjoy this story. If you think that Travis is a swaggering braggart who revels in being evil, you may well enjoy this story. All I can say is that the author clearly watched a completely different series to the one I saw. A good author can convince me that Blake is corruptible, but this author isn't good enough. She certainly can't convince me that Blake was corrupt from the start by simply repeating this over and over in the narrator's voice. I finished it for the purpose of reviewing the zine. I won't be reading it again. It's badly-written rubbish. Unfortunately it's also half of the zine page count.

Afterdeath - the 'authentic' alternative PGP - Ros Williams

Somthing tells me that Ros Williams wasn't impressed with _Afterlife_... I abandoned the story when it moved from an alternative version of _Blake_ to taking the piss out of _Afterlife_, since it's not all that funny when you haven't read past the first few pages of that being parodied. I suspect that those more familiar with the original novel will enjoy this.

The Coward's Way - Kathryn Cutmore

A third series McGuffin hunt results in Avon being captured. Vila volunteers to rescue him. Competently written A-V, with nice characterisation for Avon and Vila. It does short-change Tarrant somewhat, suggesting that he'd leave Avon behind. For all Tarrant's faults, that's one thing that I think the boy can't be accused of. Other than that, I enjoyed this story.

Night-watching - Wendy Ingle

Vignette with Cally waiting for her turn on night watch as she, Avon and Vila wait for the Liberator to make pick-up. Short and effective.

Recognition - Fliss Davies

Vignette with Avon and Tarrant meeting a man who may or may not be Blake. I didn't find it convincing, but those with different tastes may like it better.