Last week, in my anthology review of Warriors by GRRM and Gardner Dozois, I blurbed three of the best short stories I have read in a while: Landsdale, Beagle, and Hobb all put forward masterful performances. Now, after finishing the entire anthology, I am ready to render a more comprehensive verdict.
The Warriors anthology enjoys a range, breadth, and depth that will appeal to any reader while showcasing the biggest names in speculative fiction. The different approaches to the warrior archetype all produce worthy stories; from midnight black through grey and all the way to scintillating white, warriors of every type abound. That said, the same could be said of virtually any anthology in which contributors are given such a broad and subjective topic.
The most interesting stories for me were the fresh ones - those not set in a previous world already intimately familiar to the author. In those, the story line is tighter, more focused, and ultimately much more personal. All in all, a fine showing by all the contributors to the anthology, though a couple of the stories lost some of their appeal after I discovered they were prequels to stories I was already familiar with - GRRM's little ditty not included. That was a fun one... (and thanks for the link love Mr. Martin).
Overall an excellent vintage. Like a fine wine that takes time to open up (think '83 Margaux) giving you a range of surprising flavors you didn't expect and delighting the pallet. Deep, intense, with shining moments of humor and pathos, the Warriors anthology is well worth the read.
Forever Bound, by Joe Haldeman
I am a huge fan of Mr. Haldeman's having read the vast majority of his work going into his short story, which is a prequel to Forever Peace. That said, it just didn't click for me just as Forever Peace didn't either. No harm no foul, it was still a nifty piece drawing heavily on Mr. Haldeman's strengths as an author. A tight focus which blossoms into a sense of wonder and amazement generally directed at humanity's inherent potential. Nough said.
And Ministers of Grace, by Tad Williams
Mr. Williams' piece is hard space opera science fiction a la Hamilton. Full on bio-engineered weaponized soldiers pound it out, and then some more, and heck, lets throw in some cannibalism for the fun of it. The protagonist starts out a bit shallow and one dimensional but then opens up quite nicely (I'll go with the '83 Margaux for comparison). All in all, a fun piece that reads nicely as a prequel to a much larger story. Want to buy more please.
Seven Years from Home, Naomi Novik
Similar to Tad Williams' piece, Novik skims ecopunk (are we using that term yet?) and presents us a world divided between two waring continents; one is fairly belligerent/capitalist and the other populated by bio-engineering tree huggers. Told from the point of view of a young adventurer, the story is well worth your time and again will leave you wanting to read more.... which seems to be a recurring problem with me and reading anthologies.
The Scroll, by David Ball
Only one word to describe this one: BRUTAL. Yes, the caps are deliberate, hopefully conveying undertones of sadism, torture, and anguish. Before diving into this one, queue up some calming music and pictures of puppies, because you are going to need them. Mr. Ball gives us the darkest side of human nature, and does it well. Served up for your reading pleasure, some of the darkest and most depraved historical fiction you are likely to encounter. You have been warned.