I've known Edward Ahern for a couple of years now, and I was pleased to pick up his new collection of short stories, Capricious Visions. A mixture of fantasy and horror stories, the writing is at times fun and other times macabre, but the stories always held my interest from start to finish. I've written a more in-depth review at Bewildering Stories, which you can read here. I hope you enjoy the collection as much as I did!
I've often enjoyed reading the anthologies by Third Flatiron, often edited by publisher Juliana Rew. In fact, I had a story published by them a couple years ago in Abbreviated Epics. So I started to read their new anthology, Hyperpowers, with anticipation. It was guest edited by Bascomb James, and the theme of the book was space opera and military SF stories, genres I've enjoyed since reading Heinlein when I was a kid.
I have a full review of the anthology published at Bewildering Stories magazine.
Layden Robinson's The Boston Ranter: Slanted Vignettes from a Native New Englander are short stories, mostly flash fiction, written in a stream-of-consciousness humorous style about growing up and living in blue collar Massachusetts. There are a few detours into magical realism and science fiction, but the stories are mostly written as fiction or creative nonfiction. Sprinkled with swear words and drug references, often written with a nod to the Boston vernacular ("h"s instead of "r"s) it reads like the stories you'd hear sitting down at a bar to drink a pint with a friend.
I've enjoyed other short stories by Edward Ahern in various magazines, and so I was pleased to pick up his newly released book, The Witch Made Me Do It: Modern Fairy Tales. The book is composed of fifteen stories previously published in a variety of magazines, gathered together for the first time in a collection. These stories are in Mr. Ahern's usual very readable style, and I finished the book in about a day.
The retold fairy tales are taken from a variety of sources - some Russian, some European, some Native American. Some are set in classical settings in the past, some are adapted for the modern day. They highlight a number of traditional dichotomies, such as good versus evil, men versus women, hard work versus laziness, poor versus rich.
I'm a sucker for fairy tales, and I thought this was a very nicely composed collection. I'm sure that my kids would enjoy them as much as I did, although some of the stories have more grown-up themes that might pass over their heads right now. While the tone of the stories is generally straightforward, there are some instances of tongue-in-cheek humor that elevate them just a touch and gives them an added layer of meaning. I enjoyed the collection as much as I've enjoyed Mr. Ahern's previous stories, and would definitely read more work by him. For fans of fairy tale retellings, I think this is a great collection, and I'd recommend it.
It's been a while since I've read a good science fiction book or a collection of short stories, and so I was happy to open up Third Flatiron's new anthology, The Time It Happened. There are fifteen short stories in the collection with an eclectic variety of styles. Some are told with a rich, poetic language, some in modernistic terms, and some harken back to classic tales from the golden age of science fiction, so there is really something in this anthology for everyone.
In the feature story, "False Footfall" by Martin Clark, the protagonist is diagnosed with Temporal Psychosis after prolonged exposure to radiation through his job - which means he has a different understanding of the past than everyone else. Or is he right about the past and everyone else wrong? This was less a style of story that drew me in, as I felt the action moved a little too fast for me – one of the problems when reading a short story rather than a longer piece. But an interesting idea.
"Lincoln's Watch" by Atar Hadari is fascinating and poetic. It details a man, Joe, who is obsessed with President Lincoln's pocket watch to the exclusion of all else in his life. One of my favorite stories of the collection.
"Going Viral" by Dan Koboldt is a real page-turner of a story about a miracle virus that cures cancer, and follows the lives of the scientists who discover it. Another favorite story of the collection for me, with a dose of humor running through it that made me smile.
Ellen Denton writes about a world stopped in "Stilled Life," and the few people who are remaining to figure out the mystery. I especially liked how there are a series of vignettes strung together at the beginning of the story to show the universal nature of the problems the protagonists face; I felt it worked really well to show the reader the set-up of this alternate reality.
In "Kin Carriers," Jason Lairamore shows the reader the destruction of a space colony by a military ship sent from Earth. But does the one survivor have a last message of hope for the captain? Like the intro story, I felt this one was too brief for me – I would have liked to see more.
In a heartless city where only the strong survive, Yvan has lost both his mother and brother. But Larry C. Kay's "What Was Lost" shows the reader that death isn't always the ending it is supposed to be. I liked the decided change of tone in this story compared to the others – much darker, yet with a hopeful message.
Richard Mark Ankers' "Armada of Snow" reveals a post-apocalyptic world in which Earth has already survived one alien invasion. When the alien ships fill the horizon for a second time, will it mean the end of the world? The tone of this one takes me back to classic sci-fi, Twilight Zone era.
"Puppy Love" by Thomas Canfield is filled with Russian spies, the FBI and a major international conspiracy… or perhaps only two kids in love?
What would happen to all of us if the world's coffee supply suddenly disappeared? "Good to the Last Drop" by Wendy Nikel explores that concept in an exaggerated doomsday world without our most beloved beverage. I got a good chuckle out of the silliness of the idea of a world without coffee used as a serious idea – a good juxtaposition.
"With Gilded Wings" by Evan Henry is a beautifully told story about alien whales that fly through space, reminiscent to me of one of Bradbury's short tales. Another favorite of the anthology for me.
Elliotte Rusty Harold's tale, "Net War I" talks about the new frontier of war, which is fought through technology and intellect instead of on the physical plane. This tale has a more modern feel to me, with a tone that reminds me of the writing of Charles Stross.
A combination of alternate history, science fiction and love story, "A Rock in the Air" by Neil James Hudson is a tale that will linger with the reader. Definitely one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite of the anthology, it's a story about Hideyoshi Kita, who miraculously survives the atomic blast at Hiroshima. But he learns, in the end, that there are many different types of survival, and perhaps living with the mistakes of his life choices isn't enough. I love this story and will definitely look out for more by this author.
A silly and fun story, "Blargnorff Industries New Employee Handbook Human Edition" by Dana Schellings makes any other job choice look positively wonderful by comparison.
I got another chuckle out of the "The Zzzombie Apocalypse" by Mark Hill, which makes one wonder – what if the zombie apocalypse wasn't all that bad, but only hyped up by mainstream media?
"Xenofabulous" by Amanda C. Davis is a unique take on alien contact and how it would influence human culture. Another fun flash fiction piece to end the book.
This anthology offers up a great mix of stories in a variety of styles, enough for any fan of science fiction. Some are more hard science fiction, some on the softer science side. I had a few particular favorites and a couple that weren't to my tastes, but overall the quality of this anthology was very high and I really enjoyed the read. I would recommend it to any fans of science fiction short stories.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.