Pros: Lovely tales
Cons: Standard anthology potential problem: you might not enjoy all of the tales
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Anthology I, from The Novel Fox, is a delightful collection of short science fiction and fantasy stories. One of the inherent anthology problems is that you’re almost guaranteed to dislike something inside, because the stories will all be rather different. I almost never give an anthology a score over 4, and most of them are closer to 3. This one I consider a 4.5. I felt drawn in to each of the stories, and they had some beauty to them. At its best an anthology can introduce you to new authors to follow, and that definitely happened here for me.
Washout, by Dominic Dulley, introduces us to a world where ships are merged with the minds of people–but it’s a long process that starts early in the child’s life. To wash out of the program is a horrible thing from which people don’t tend to recover. Nix has, after many years becoming incredibly close to her ship, Blythe, learned that she’s a washout. What she does with this is bittersweet.
Paying Old Debts, by Gerri Leen: Clifford is a not-quite-human/not-quite-robot assassin. He has a grudge against someone, but right now he’s on an assignment to help train another of his kind–Nanette. Her purpose is more specialized–to imitate a particular person in her maker’s quest for revenge. Nan and Clifford may be carefully programmed, but they also know how to work around the edges of what they’re told to do. It’s fascinating to see how these two think and act.
Where’s the King’s Head? by T.D. Edge: Sam and her father are staying out in the middle of nowhere, hopefully under the radar. Sam learns some interesting things about herself, and has to make a very hard choice. I absolutely loved this one; despite the short length, the main characters made me feel for them.
The Shadowless, by Rati Mehrotra: Nissa is trying to escape an upcoming marriage, but the presence of an implant allows her parents to track and comment on all of her movements. The ending of this tale was a tad abrupt, but the world is beautiful and bold. I’d love to read more by this author.
Clean, Like Water From A Winter’s Thaw, by Shawn Scarber: This wasn’t a long enough tale to completely win me over to its world, but there are some great cross-species interactions.
A Wand’s Tale, by Ernesto Pavan: An incredible wand will allow only one person to wield its power, and that person, Evelyn, has quite the use to put it to. I might have shed a tear or two by the end of this one.
Subsidence, by Peter White: This tale of dangerous sand dunes by a golf course seemed like it was going to be pretty silly and/or ridiculous when the first hint of the supernatural turned up. The author deftly twisted things from there to make the tale horrifying. That takes real skill!
Grant My Powder Be Dry and My Aim Be True, by Shane Halbach: An old god disapproves when a new godling seems to be encroaching on a portion of the older god’s territory. But even gods can be thwarted. I would love to read more of this tale; the characters and worldbuilding both intrigued me.
I’ve done what I could to give you a taste of the stories involved; it’s hard to write much about short stories without giving too much away. It suffices to say that I found all of these stories to be both enjoyable and lovely, each in its own way. I don’t know what editor at The Novel Fox collected these, but that person has a knack for recognizing good stories.
NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher.