Ruined Cities edited by James Tallett (2013) – I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this anthology before. I like beginning writers and original stories, so independent publications’ short story collections are right up my alley. I’m not wild about dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories, but this one is large and meaty (420 pages) and has some exceptional writing. I’ll talk about a few of my favorites.
“The City Over Hell” by Jennifer Povey – A young illiterate girl discovers her city is actually a dying space station orbiting a fiery planet called Hell. She and everyone are doomed until an old man with knowledge of the station’s propulsion unit takes her under his wing and grooms her to pilot the station to a habitable planet.
“Crossing” by John Biggs – A young woman struggles to survive after most of the world’s population is wiped out. She escapes rapists, druggies, and thieves and thinks her time has run out until she meets a man she hasn’t encountered before – a hero.
“Freaks” by Stephen Rodgers – My favorite out of the entire book. It has a strong sense of Blade Runner in this futuristic tale where people live in virtual reality while the world goes to hell in a handbasket. A policeman copes with the rising number of freaks – poverty level mutants who have been physically altered by drugs – and his virtually addicted girlfriend. Their only hope may be the Eggheads, freaks with giant craniums who want to save the world before the corporations enslave everyone.
“The Last Empress of Atlantis” by Jay Litwicki – In the last days (hours?) of Atlantis, an old man rescues his buddy, a giant gay poet, from a prison, accompanied by a strange waif intent on collecting the signet rings of the royal families.
“We, the People of the Clouds” by Simon Kewin – Everyone has become digitalized and moved to the cloud where they spend their days relaxing on virtual beaches and doing whatever they want. Until glitches in the system cause people to forget things and places to disappear. One man who helped build the cloud realizes something is very wrong in the outside world and has to find a way to save everyone.
“In the Shadow of Paha Byrat” by Dale Carothers – A reluctant goddess aids a beggar with no arms and no legs and discovers he has much to teach her about the courage she needs to become one of the stone pillars supporting her city.
“Juarez Square” by D.L. Young – a young street thug works for a kingpin to improve robot drug dealers, but he’s unprepared for the opposition.
Really an excellent collection. The writing is top notch and very professional for an independent press.