Summary: An accident, a chance encounter, a thought blurted out, a boat blown off course, a change in direction that suddenly runs into the line of fire – the smallest misstep can change everything. These foolish encounters are the moments around which lives pivot and sometimes spin out of control. Join us for tales of imprudent choices and bad decisions that can lead just as easily to hilarity as they can to tragedy.
Review: The premise of this anthology is how one incident, experience, the choices made, can alter your life course and they can turn out to be funny, painful or somehow work out in a way you never expected.
This anthology has two contemporary stories with five fantasy/science fiction stories in the mix, a diverse anthology!
I’ll admit it, I like anthologies. For one, you can get new short stories from some of your favorite authors and I think they are a great way to discover authors you might not have read before as I know some of my favorites I first read in one of these compilations.
I really enjoyed this particular anthology and part of what I liked about it is that although the premise was the same for each story – how one event/choice/encounter can change your life, that they were not all the same! Now, for anyone looking at the cover or looking at the authors and trying to connect the dots, as it were, there is a mix of contemporary and fantasy/science fiction in here and not all of the stories are light hearted fare. For me, once I got past that notion, I was able to really enjoy each story on its own!
A Message from the Home Office by Angel Martinez – it is set on Earth, but it is a fantasy/science fiction story with two beings of Yervath origin, Sissal, a cobra shifter who has been at his Earth outpost for some time on his own and Rcrred, a dik-dik shifter, who arrives to be his assistant. If you don’t know what a dik dik is (and I did not), you have to look them up, I won’t go into detail as to why, but you’ll know why later in the story when Rcrred shifts!
I loved this story; it is a wonderful mix of heart and fantasy. Whether it was always part of Sissal’s nature, or just the amount of time he’s been on his own, he had a conscience for how he had initially treated Rcrred and after a supply run where he comes back to Rcrred in a panic attack, took the time to get to know him and saw Rcrred as more than “just” an annoying guy stuck on rules and procedures, he saw him as a real being, without judgment. However, not all is as it seems, for either of them, and as they discover how they have been played, only have each other to talk to and depend on, they have to decide what to do and Rcrred may have found the first person who actually sees him and not his quirks.
It is also worth noting that the very intro of this story, Rcrred is delivered by the crew of the Nutcracker, who are featured in the closing story of this anthology!
Shredding the Heart by J.C. Wallace – this is one of the two contemporary stories where the one character, Nicholas, who is a part time student, part time worked and part time skating competitor, wants to meet a man he sees jogging in the park every day. Quinn is the man in question, who jogs not only to keep in shape, but deal with the stress that is his work life, he is successful, but not necessarily loving what he does! Nicholas attempts to impress Quinn, but gets distracted and sends them both to the hospital instead! And so begins their path of choices.
I quite liked this story, both characters were believable and I liked that both characters were vulnerable, they both make poor choices of what they share or don’t share, which might have helped them not make assumptions that could push them apart. Quinn was hurt very badly by a previous boyfriend and Nicholas is used to be people thinking he is not a serious person with his skateboarding, and the fact he often puts other people first is made very apparent as a result of their misunderstanding.
In a longer story, the outcome could probably have been fleshed out a bit more, because I really like these characters and I would have liked to know more about Quinn’s evolution, but I did enjoy the story as it is here.
The Lunar Imperative by Elin Gregory – a return to the fantasy/science fiction stories, the Vargan Guard are on a mission to track the individual that betrayed their race. Haken survived that betrayal, and while the guard would not be the first choice for a reconnaissance mission, they feel duty bound to take it on. The title references a forced change to the Vargan men, who can become more aggressive as a result of it. They have found control measures to deal with it, but if someone knows, that change can be used against them. I can’t really share too much of this one without spoiling it, but it is quite an action packed short story that I think fantasy/science fiction fans will really enjoy.
Blue and Green Persuasion by Tinnean – another fantasy/science fiction story, Hart is the chief scout for ship called the Midnight Ride. Their ship is dying, they still have their crew and some of the refugees they rescued in cryogenic beds and need to find someplace they can live or they will die on the ship. When a planet is found, Hart is sent out to see if it would be habitable. Hart has the ability to understand any dialect he comes across, even animal, so he is able to converse with Kes, a Trel – half man, half bird covered in purple/black feathers on the planet that may be able to sustain the lives on the Midnight Ride. He is also able to communicate with the corvid that Kes sends see what Hart is doing, but also helps Hart with some of their refugees when they land. A great story, great characters and you could easily see this becoming a longer story, or at least hope for sequels to find out what happens with Dayne, one of the refugees and Bar, Hart’s half brother as well as exploring the memory Hart references when he and Kes reunite after bringing the refugees down.
Well Hello, Eight Eyes by Tali Spencer – this story is more like fantasy/paranormal and involves Tanner, a man who each year, takes a wreath out on Lake Michigan where a plane crash took his last love. This particular year, the November witch storm is very bad and tosses him, but he somehow ends up on Spider Island and meets Cory, a young man who has grown up on the island and is innocent is so many ways, but has a big secret he’s trying to keep from his guest. Of course, secrets have a way of getting out and how is Tanner going to deal with it – and how are the islanders going to deal with him? I don’t want to spoil this one either, and I suspected, from the title and the island name, that spiders may figure into it, and they do, but it is a secondary part to the relationship of the characters so if you are spider squeamish, you should know about this, but also, I hope you give it a chance, because Cory is one of those characters you just love!
The Fenestra Penetration by Amy Lane – this is the second contemporary story. A UPS driver by the name of Steve, who likes to make people happy with the deliveries he makes and sometimes likes to make up stories of what is behind the delivery. When he gets a package for Gordon, from a “toy” company he knows well, he decides to stick around to deliver rather than ring the bell and leave. This is a fun story, and that is all I’m going to say because really, you have to read it and have fun with it – yes, you have fun with an Amy Lane story, no angst this time, but great just the same!
The Nut Job by Freddy MacKay – the last fantasy/science fiction story that closes the circle started with the Angel Martinez book. Set on earth, Spencer is a Mithuanaen, his scout and helmsman is Yervath, Bope, who, when stressed, shifts to a rabbit form. Bikkas is his first officer and Imeldian, who are the ancestors of humans on earth, despite what we all thought and his hair tends to resemble moss to the untrained eye! The last crew member is Krapor, the mechanic who is Tu’Varian and is described by one human as looking like Gumby, which is pretty apt since he takes being flexible to new meaning! The author actually has one of the best descriptions of this story – what do an alien that looks a lot like a giant squirrel and a pot smoking human have in common? After delivering Rcrred to Sissal and running, they are on to their next mission, harvesting walnuts – which is usually an ordinary mission, but of course, what would be the fun in that? For this, you need a sasquatch obsessed hunter, a half Japanese young man named Raijin (the pot smoking human) and you get The Nut Job! I cannot really share much more without spoiling it, but I was quite impressed with the level of detail for a short story while still maintaining the pace for the action and finishing up, but also leaving you wanting more (what is involved with being a Mithuanaen pet?!?).
I would recommend this for MM fiction fans, I found the mix of genres interesting and really good stories to discover these authors – if you have not read fantasy/science fiction, short stories are always a good way to start to see if they interest you and this anthology balances humor and drama in the stories, while making sense to have the two contemporary stories as well. There is romance and hot scenes, but overall I’d just call it a great read!