Story Review: Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson from Alien Days Anthology

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson is the sixteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. During an alien version of a zombie apocalypse, one man finds a way to make a few bucks.

Character:  I re-scanned the story a few times and didn’t even find a name. So he’s got a “House, M.D.” sort of jerk-face appeal to him, but other than establishing he hates people and likes money, there’s no real character development in this story. 

Exposition: This story was told in first person, so that will always increase the amount of exposition, but I still feel there was a lot more exposition than necessary. I think if this were the first chapter in a story with character development, I’d love it. As a stand-alone story, it’s just a guy complaining about things while he kills alien zombies. Some people will love that. I’m just not one of them. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an alternate Earth. There isn’t much more to it that that. We get some details on how this world came to be, but even that was buried in the aforementioned exposition.

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Image of Howard-Hobson was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This is not applicable as it’s just an internal monologue. 

Description: This is probably the best part of the story. Howard-Hobson’s description is very good. It’s detailed without being overwhelming. It’s strongest in describing the action and the aliens, but there is attention paid to all the senses, and that’s a positive. 

Overall: So this was a decent zombie scene. If you like a bit of zombie-killing mayhem, you probably won’t regret picking it up. It feels a bit out of place in the anthology, but it’s a nice little character scene. It drags a bit here or there, but it wasn’t boring. I personally need a bit more from the character than I got (or more of something), but it was ok. I’d say this is sort of like a pop-corn movie for readers.  

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Recidivism by Charles E. Gannon from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Recidivism by Charles E. Gannon from Alien Days Anthology

Happy New Year! I hope that the previous year was full of love and joy, and I hope this next year is even better!

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Recidivism by Charles E. Gannon is the fourteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Dan had written a paper regarding potential methods for planetary defense from aliens. While holding the rejection letter from his educational peers, he ironically faces the very threat he was afraid of.

 

Character:  This didn’t work for me. The biggest reason is that while Dan is a character, this story is far more like reading a military defense or scholarly essay than a story. I had go back and scan the story just to recall that much. 

Exposition: This is probably the biggest area of improvement for this story. It had more exposition than anything else, which made this a particularly difficult story to get through and then remember when it came time to write this review. 

Worldbuilding: I can’t reveal the reason this area is so weak because it would be a spoiler to the plot twist at the end (or at least I think that’s what it was supposed to be). However, that plot twist isn’t foreshadowed or teased at all, so it just seems to come out of left field. The smallest bit of worldbuilding would have helped with that problem.

Dialogue: This is non applicable since there wasn’t a single conversation or spoken word in the entire story. 

Description: The only description I remember from this story was the detail put into the papers on which the essay or memo was written. Again, the ending would have been more rewarding if there was more (I do vaguely recall some details about Dan) description in the story. 

Overall: Regrettably, this story reads like a scholarly paper with brief, impersonal interludes into the life of the one who wrote it. There’s no conflict at all to speak of. There’s not lesson learned for the character. There’s no journey. I just didn’t find it entertaining or compelling at all. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: The Law of the Jungle by Mickey Ferron from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: The Law of the Jungle by Mickey Ferron from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Law of the Jungle by Mickey Ferron is the twelfth story in the Alien Days Anthology. An alien creature has stepped through a worm hole ready to begin the first stages of what should be a simple planetary takeover. Humans are soft, and their technology is limited. However, the pack of wolves that just happened to have been there when the alien arrived has other ideas. Can one of Earths keenest hunters save the planet before humanity even realizes it’s in trouble?

Character:  So the main character in this is the pack leader. The author does a few clever things to try and connect us to them. There’s a bit of Jack London in this story, just not enough for me. I think the author was constrained by the limitations of shorter fiction. I don’t know what his limits were, but I didn’t really get any time to connect with the pack before the action started, so it was just a bit of action-packed Spam in the can. The action was pretty interesting, but I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the wolves. 

Exposition: Here Ferron applied an old-school literary technique of repetition. What was meant to be poet and suspense-building didn’t really work for me. This in combination with the lack of a connection to the character is what brought the story down for me. Perhaps if the repetition of the theme weren’t as numerous, it would have worked, but it just felt like extra words to me. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place in Alaska, but there isn’t much in the way of setting or scene. Most of this story revolves around the fight.

Dialogue: I’d have to read the story again to determine if there even is any dialogue. This story certainly wasn’t like Homeward Bound, where the reader could read the animal’s thoughts or conversations (at least not to an anthropomorphic degree). 

Description:  The author took a lot of time on the appearance of the wolves and the manner of the fight. I have to acknowledge the author worked very hard to only describe things from the wolves’ points of view, which had to have limited what he could do. As I mentioned above, I needed a little bit more than action and wolf-appearance description. 

Overall: This felt like a really good fight scene from a novel that’s missing the rest of the novel. If the author had spent any time building a connection between me and the wolves, it would have been an amazing story. As it is, it’s just a pretty cool fight with an interesting pair of opponents. It’s wasn’t a boring read (except for all that repetition), but it wasn’t really as cool as it could have been. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: First Friendship by A.N. Myers from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: First Friendship by A.N. Myers from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  First Friendship by A.N. Myers is the tenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Robert has been given an impossible window cleaning job by the Shoma, an alien race that now essentially runs earth since they arrived. Then Robert meets a man who explains the secret behind the Shoma. That information inspires Robert to do what he can to send a message to the alines who’ve made his life so horrible. What will the consequences of his message really do?

Character:  I admit, I couldn’t remember Robert’s name, but he (as a character) is easily the most memorable character in the entire anthology. He’s sympathetic; he takes action to do something. His arc is memorable. I rooted for this character. I understood him. 

Exposition: While there was some tucked away in the dialogue, this story moves swiftly and doesn’t bog the reader down with more than they need. 

Worldbuilding: While taking place on earth, Myers does a nice job of helping us understand the history of this alternative reality. This history becomes a sort of plot device that creates some symbolism for readers who like that sort of thing. I don’t normally need symbolism, but I don’t mind it either. I appreciate it most when it fits the plot and doesn’t beat a reader over the head, and this story does it that way.

Dialogue: This was also probably the best in the whole anthology. For starters, there were more characters in this story. But it flowed naturally and gave us insight into the characters. It wasn’t just about what they said, but how they said it. 

Description:  Typically for me, this had about what I liked but perhaps not as much as a harder scifi reader would want.  The best example is the Shoma. Their height and stature are plot elements, but I couldn’t say another thing about them. That said, I got a mental image for how I think they look, and I always like the movie theatre in my head more than any other anyway. 

Overall: I can say this is probably the best story in the anthology (and one of only about half I liked very much). This story had a character I was able to connect with who took action. I cared about what he was trying to do, and I cared about what his actions might do. This story does sort of move fast (down on his luck main character gets an offer he can’t refuse), but I didn’t mind that so much. I appreciated the attention to character and tone along with the history of this alternate earth and how it related to how the story ends. This story ranks first among my top three (the other two I’ve already discussed in earlier reviews). 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino is the fourth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Bennett is dead, but that won’t stop him from having one last mission. Bennett’s death is the result of an alien weapon that imitates life, but forces the victim to drift into a vegetative state.  When offered a chance at a literal suicide mission, he takes it.

Character:  Bennett was sympathetic and proactive, which is why this story moved for me. I understood his motivation and wondered how the story might go. Given how the first part of the story works, that mystery sort of died for me (yeah, I took that pun).  My struggle is that I didn’t have a “what was gonna happen” feel for me. Now, I personally hate prequels for the same reason. If I already know what’s happening, I’m just not invested. I think if a writer does enough to make the characters matter, the story might be successful, but I’ve never seen it. 

Exposition: This was fantastic. This story moved. Sure, we get a lot of dialogue exposition (This is how you are dead but still walking), but it still came in a natural, conversational tone. So while I may not have been on the edge of my seat wondering how things would go down, I didn’t feel like I was slugging through a muddy plot to get there. 

Regolino
Image of Regolino taken from his author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: In this case the reader has to take more on faith than I think a typical SCIFI fan would like. The exposition mentioned above feels a bit like a, “just go with it, OK?” vibe. Given that I’m not the most persnickety SCIFI reader, I didn’t mind so much. My mental answer was, “OK.” This is a more character-driven story, so I don’t think the author wanted to get too caught up in the hows and whys. It didn’t bother me much, but fans of Herbert and Zahn aren’t going to want to suspend their disbelief as much as I could. 

Dialogue: There isn’t a ton of dialogue in this story, and I’d say at least forty percent of it is explaining how a story like this is possible. Still, it felt conversational, and the speakers still had a unique voice. 

Description:  I liked this aspect of the story. I say this pretty much every time, but I have no way of know who’s reading what review I do. I don’t need a ton of description. Just get my imagination going, and let said imagination take over. This story did that. I saw what I needed to see. Can I give you one character quality or descriptor for Bennett? Nope. So yeah, we probably could have had more, but I rank plot over description and character over everything. I got what I wanted from this story.

Overall: If it weren’t for the beginning of this story, I’d have put this tale at in my top three. I already mentioned why above. It’s still got some clever scenes and an interesting premise. If you’re not over invested in worldbuilding, you can give this story a chance if you want some interesting philosophical fiction with a touch of action. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Story Review: A Series of Anomalous Phenomena by D.B. Crelia from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: A Series of Anomalous Phenomena by D.B. Crelia from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Series of Anomalous Phenomena by D.B. Crelia is the second story in the Alien Days Anthology. Humm is a shape shifter serving as first officer aboard his ship. He’s been tasked with a mission to obtain some DNA, but when things start to go wrong, they seem to pile up until they reveal just how bad Humm’s day is about to get.

Character:  Humm is likable if not proactive. He’s not competent either, but that’s be designed. The light-hearted approach to the story really worked for Humm. If you can’t have a memorable character (and I don’t  think Humm was) the next best thing is to have a character who was memorable for something. Humm was memorable to me because of his earnestness, which makes his humorous shortcomings endearing rather than frustrating.

Exposition: Honestly I thought this was spectacular, especially for short fiction. I don’t remember a moment where the story didn’t move forward and keep me either laughing or wondering what would happen next. That’s a big credit to the author. 

Worldbuilding: This story also takes place on Earth. We could do with a bit more establishing the alien races. For the story, it wasn’t so bad. But I would have liked a bit more rounding out of the universe at large. However, if someone were to argue that wasn’t necessary and might obstruct the story, I’d probably have to admit that’s true.  

Dialogue: This was solid. It wasn’t bad at all, but it didn’t stand out either. I think it was the biggest, surest way to improve the story. If the dialogue were a bit more snappy and clever, this story might have gone from not bad to great or even better than that. 

Crelia
Image of Mr. Crelia taken from his Amazon author page for review under Fair Use doctrine. 

Description:  I got what I wanted from the story in regard to description. As usual, someone could argue they want more, and I wouldn’t shout about it, but I saw what I needed, and my imagination did the rest.  

Overall: This was a clever little story that had a good amount of humor. If you have 30-minutes, and you wanted something fun to read or listen to on Audible, this would be something to reach for. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Alien Days: A Castrum Press Anthology

Alien Days: A Castrum Press Anthology

Greetings all,

41ntTIvrguLI was thinking about what to write about for the blog today and remembered my good friend Corey Truax has a new title available. While I’m still pulling out my hair waiting for his own personal book, he and J.R. Handley worked together again for this new story, which comes in an other anthology. This anthology, Alien Days, is available right now!

Here’s the blurb for the anthology:

Alien Days is a multi-author anthology with thrilling tales of aliens, invasions, artificial intelligence, friendship, deceit and extinction. A combination which makes this collection a must-read for science fiction short story fans.
This anthology features Nebula and Dragon award nominees, Amazon bestsellers and award winners alongside rising stars in the science fiction genre. Let the authors take you on adventures through dystopian worlds and far flung planets that will stretch your imagination… Welcome to Alien Days.

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Image of Truax taken from his website for advertising purposes.

I read Corey and J.R.’s last short story in a previous anthology, and I’m excited to have this one on my own TBR pile. J.R. is also a friend, and I’ve read a number of his books. Corey did a blog about this anthology on his page, so you can check that out here.

I can’t say I’ve read any of the work from the other authors, but that’s why I love anthologies so much. They introduce me to authors, and I almost always come away with another author I enjoy reading. I learned about Peter V. Brett from one anthology. I learned about Jake Bible (who I haven’t read more from but intend to) in another.

Anthologies are a fantastic way to get several great stories and meet authors you might not have otherwise heard about. I invite you all to try this one out. I already have my copy.

Thanks for reading,

Matt