SciFan Magazine, Dayne Edmondson, Richard M. Mulder, and Patrick Hodges, Editors (2017)
This anthology is a little different than most. Not only does it include science fiction and fantasy short stories, but it also contains excerpts from new science fiction and fantasy novels. It’s an interesting way to read a bit of a novel and see if you like it or not. Clever. I’ve marked the excerpts with an asterisk.
Across the St. Lawrence: A Tale of the Pendragon Empire by Teel James Glenn – They say to always start an anthology with your strongest tale, and this short story is certainly that. It’s an alternate history/steampunk adventure about a young English Baronet and his Aztec warrior bodyguard/lover who doesn’t mind going topless. They’re struggling to escape and evade their kidnappers long enough to save the ambassador from an assassination plot. Great fight scenes (the author is a professional stuntman). Great relationship and non-stop action.
Soraya: Episode One by Patrick Hodges* – I wasn’t sure how I felt about spending my money for parts of stories, but I’m coming around to the idea. In this intro, a priestess, a huntress, and a young girl are among a group of twenty women beaten and dragged off across the desert by a group of male barbarians. While interesting characters with conflict between them, I kept wondering why they were more worried about becoming slaves than sex abuse victims. Well written and intriguing. How are they going to get out of this?
Inhospitable by Dusty Wallace – Great tale of a prospector on an empty planet who discovers the mother lode only to find it’s protected by innocent rock people. I’d read an entire novel about this colorful woman and her mule (this is not a chapter 1).
The SciFan Universe: Episode 2 by Jared J. Fleming* – An odd title but a common theme in modern fantasy – fallen angels battle good angel agents with their human armies.
The Siege by Daniel Thompson – Clever story of two young boys who live underground who find a spacesuit from a planet-wide battle decades earlier. It’s all fun and games until the suit grabs one of the boys by the ankle! Interesting idea and great pacing.
Stormguard: Episode Two by Tom Fallwell* – Another fallen angel tale but these friendly agents have more tech than 007.
The Children in the Luxembourg by Janna Layton – This story should have been right up my alley – a middle-aged teacher moves to France to help care for a four super-hero teens – but I never quite understood what their powers were. There’s an off-screen battle where the kids take out giant robots, one of them is hurt (also off-screen), and the others ask about him. I felt as if I was reading an encyclopedia entry. I got a good sense of the narrator, but that was about all.
The Secret King Lethao: The Summit by Dawn Chapman* – I was initially confused by this Exclusive Preview (excerpt), but this is probably one of the novels I’d buy after reading the first chapter. It’s confusing because the story doesn’t start out with the new king when his father dies but with his right-hand man who has to hold the warring factions together until his friend returns from his quest. The scene with the local boy bringing them all together is great.
The Shifter by Jeff Baker – After all this serious swashing and buckling, it’s nice to have a nice fun piece like this. In the near future, a Mad Scientist invents a gaydar device that not only detects how gay you are but also adjusts it from zero to one hundred! Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, don’t ask the Representative with a wife, two girlfriends, and a boyfriend when he appears on the evening news with a story he’s “changed.” Short, sweet, and clever.
A Wizard’s Forge, Book One of the Woern Saga, The Rewards of Greed by A.M. Justice* – An intriguing look at a desert world with intelligent insects, humans on a quest to save a member of the royal family, and ancient evils. The main character, Victoria, is capable, likable, and not always one hundred percent correct. Very atmospheric and great world-building.
You Can Never Go Home Again by Kristine Remick – Yay! A super-hero story! Wow, there’s so much good stuff in this little package I don’t know where to begin. Mighty Man comes home for his father’s funeral, aware any intense emotion attracts his arch-enemy, the Phantasm, so he knows the evil-doer will appear. Altered by alien genetic manipulation, Mighty Man was supposed to be supervised by the Phantasm but when his mentor saw how sick Earth humans were, he vowed to destroy the grown-up hero and the humans. Now the hero needs to deal with his grief, his origins, his dysfunctional family, and his final showdown. Good stuff.
Counteract by Tracy Lawson* – Another excerpt. Okay, this one I may have to go out and buy a copy of, too. In a few, short well-written pages, I grew to like the various characters in this dystopian world very much. The government is making everyone take a drug every day to combat a supposed biological toxin terrorists have released into the air. Actually, it’s a mind control measure. This is great writing, and I want to see these young people come together and kick some government butt.
Darkstorm, Book One of the Rhenwars Saga by M.L. Spencer* – another excerpt. Back to the world of fantasy and a young woman’s trials and tribulations. Moved slowly, but maybe I was comparing it to Counteract.
An interesting group of stories intermingled with novel samples. I wish there had been more stories and fewer excerpts but it was well worth reading.