Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire is the third story in the Unfettered II Anthology. The princess and prince of dragons have seen the end of their world. The humans are coming, and there is no foretelling of how to prevent it. How will they face the end?

Character:  First off, I love dragons. I’m always attracted to tales of dragons, and the more human they seem, the better. The dragons here are absolutely sympathetic. I want to call them proactive, but that’s what bugged me about the story. This inevitable thing is coming, and it just, well, comes. I wanted there to be something to come of it, and I don’t feel I got that.   

Exposition: This was good. The point of view and the exposition did a great job of connecting me to the characters. That’s actually what made the ending so anticlimactic for me. 

Worldbuilding: I want to mention how impressive this was given the short nature of the story. The author crafts unique characters and lore into tight prose and structure. I was impressed by the author’s ability to do that. Usually, people sort of gloss over worldbuilding to account for short fiction. This story proves you don’t have to do that.

McGuire
Image of the author was taken from her bio on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: The dialogue here was solid if not impressive. It was realistic and helped connect to the characters.

Description: This was good enough on my end if not what some people look for in fantasy. I could see the dragons and the scene. There could have been more senses activated, especially considering dragons were the viewpoint. 

Overall: This story sort of disappointed me. You see, it had a lot of great elements, but those elements lead to an unsurprising and, ultimately, unsatisfying conclusion.  If the characters gained something, or we had a pleasantly surprising ending where the characters found a clever answer, this would be an amazing story, but to see characters just sort of lament something and then watch it arrive made great elements a disappointing story.     

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian is the second story in the Unfettered II Anthology. What seems like the story of a pair of famers working becomes a tale of an assassin’s work. However, each tale told reveals a deeper plan to the final target.

Character:  I like stories where the characters have a deeper agenda. I can’t name the characters after this long, but I remembered this story when I reviewed the title, and that’s a good sign. The protagonist has a lot of cool moments that sort of (on a very small level) remind me of Man on Fire. 

Exposition: This was strong. The plot moved well, and I didn’t get bogged down with back story. 

Worldbuilding: There isn’t much here in that regard. The story is pretty self contained. It doesn’t degrade the quality of this story since it’s so character driven. Those who want deep worldbuilding and intricate magic systems probably won’t get what they’re looking for here, but if you like clever stories, this is pretty good.

Orullian
Image of Mr. Orullian was taken from his about page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This story did right what the previous story didn’t do so well. It still didn’t have the banter or wit I typically love in dialogue, but it was genuine and natural. The conversation ebbed and flowed naturally and really made the end pay off. 

Description: I actually really appreciated this description. Obviously, a story told by an assassin is going to have some elements that could be overly graphic, and that’s not my jam. Orullian does a great job of giving the readers what they need to feel and sense the scene requires without being gruesome or lewd.  Now, there may be arguments that Caught is gruesome. That may be, again, people have different sensibilities. So I need you to understand that, as an author and creator, I  feel Orullian did a good job of being descriptive without being distasteful.

Overall: This is probably my third-favorite story in the anthology. It’s a good little tale with a nice twist that was satisfying if not surprising. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Within the Storm by Beth Frost from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Within the Storm by Beth Frost 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:  Within The Storm by Beth Frost is the eighteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. A grandmother sits her children down to tell the story of when an alien came to get shelter from a storm.

Character:  There wasn’t really any conflict in this story. I can say the main character is sympathetic. But without anything to struggle against, there wasn’t much pulling the story along. If you’ve ever helped someone get shelter from a storm, you know how this story goes. 

Exposition: This was better than the greater majority of the stories in this anthology. Despite being told in first person, this story doesn’t slow down to explain much.  

Worldbuilding: The story takes place on a farm on Earth, so there simply isn’t much world building.

Dialogue: The dialogue is conversational, but without any conflict, it felt mundane. It was like eavesdropping on the Waltons. 

Description: This was the strongest aspect of the story. The description was vivid with great attention to detail without forcing the story to come to a screeching halt. The characters received an equal amount of attention as the setting. All the senses got some sort of trigger.

Overall: This story just had no conflict. There was nothing pulling the story along. There was no danger. I can understand if the author intended to have an alien encounter story that didn’t involve some sort of invasion angle, but I had no reason to read other than I had paid for the book. For me, stories need something. No, the alien didn’t need to be hostile. We didn’t even need some sort of rush to save the alien from human experiments, but I certainly needed something. Maybe a “Keep him hidden” angle. Without a conflict to drive the story, I couldn’t get into it.

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: A Bolt from the Blue by S.K. Gregory 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 Bolt from the Blue by S.K. Gregory is the ninth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Iris is on a nature walk with her boyfriend when lightning strikes, and not the romantic kind. As literal as that lightning is, the terror it brings is that much more terrifying.

Character:  Iris was one of the few characters in this anthology I could really sympathize with.  The open was slower to give readers more of a connection. It’s not the best way to do it, but at least Gregory made sure the reader cared about Iris before moving on to the plot. This story has a sort of “thrown into the kettle” feeling. it doesn’t make Iris seem very competent, and it forces her to react rather than to act. However, the circumstances that force her to move feel relatable.  

Exposition: This was solid. There was some internal monologue where description or action would have been better, but the story moved pretty quickly. 

SKGregory
Image of Gregory taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place on earth, and the plot sort of stops (see below) short of evolving, so there wasn’t much worldbuilding to work with. I felt frustrated because the very moment where I was hooked and interested to know what happened is the same moment the story ended. It has a cliffhanger ending that just doesn’t do it for me.

 

Dialogue: The dialogue was good. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read, but you could tell the conversations were relevant and helped to reveal the characters. I’d probably say this was the author’s strongest attribute. 

Description:  The description was solid. I had what I needed from the scene without getting bogged down. It was sparse, which I liked, but most scifi readers wouldn’t appreciate. I liked that we got a somewhat proportional amount of scenic and character descriptors. This let the environment be every bit as real in my imagination as the characters. 

Overall: My only problem with this story is honestly that it just kind of froze at what I felt was the beginning of a much better story. Short fiction doesn’t have to end in a cliffhanger, and it certainly doesn’t have to end before the characters have had any opportunity to grow or take action. The idea had a ton of merit, but just as I was about to embrace the story, it ended. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran 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:  Discovery by PP Corcoran is the eighth story in the Alien Days Anthology. The crew of the Discovery is about to use integrated alien technology to test its first FTL drive to visit a far away planet. Will they make the jump? Will they meet their first alien race after this test, or is the test something completely different?

Character:  My primary grudge mentioned last week remains. I couldn’t name a single character or event without going back to look at the story. In this case, it took even longer. All of these authors are fantastic in research and description. But a great majority of their characters are sadly lacking, and this story continues that trend. 

Exposition: The good news to not remembering much means I don’t remember getting angry at how slow the story moved. This is always a good indicator that the exposition is solid or even good.  

Corcoran
Image of Corcoran was taken from his blog for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: This entire story takes place on a ship. There’s not much world building or character setting at all. We establish the plot, but we don’t set any scene.

Dialogue: Most of the dialogue was thinly hidden exposition used just to keep the plot moving. It wasn’t wooden, but it didn’t build character in any way.

Description:  Probably the strength of the story and probably the strength of the anthology. It feels like this story is an amazing outline for events and plot structure. However, it lacks any sense of conflict or characterization. This is even evident in the description itself, which is vivid in the science, but absent with the characters or scenes.

Overall: I think I’m onto something with the realization I came to above. All of these stories (or at least the bulk of them) read like rushed outlines that have pretty cool plots, but they didn’t bother to take (or have) the time to develop character and establish conflict. This story sums up to be the story of a crew that traveled across the galaxy, realized no one was there, and went back home. The end. The drama that this story could have had (the anticipation of meeting an alien species, the desire to learn from new cultures or the fear of facing more advanced beings) just isn’t there. That really just undercuts everything else for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it every time. If a story’s characters don’t grab me, the story isn’t going to grab me either. This story might best represent the main issue I have with the entire anthology. 

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

Story Review: Faith by Chris Kennedy, From For a Few Credits More Anthology

Story Review: Faith by Chris Kennedy, From For a Few Credits More Anthology

 

510QAdWwRNLSpoiler Free Summary: Faith by Chris Kennedy is the 15th story in the Four Horsemen anthology, For a Few Credits More.  Andrews is a prisoner who’s being recalled to duty? Why? The job will probably get him killed, and prisoners are handy sacrificial pawns. He’s thrust into a Suicide Squad style mission, and when he lands, he realizes this kamikaze mission has taken him home, a place he’d never want to return to.

Character: I’m actually of two minds about Andrews. As a character arc, he’s solid. He’s a man without hope trying to stay alive. The reason this doesn’t quite work for me personally is the end.  His decisive moment for me would have been much more satisfying if his arc were different. What’s the choice? Come on folks! I’m still trying to get a good anthology some plug, so go pick it up and decide for yourself if the end is satisfying.

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Image of Mr. Kennedy taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine. 

Description: The world building to the story made this segment seem that much better.  I can tell the world building was stronger because I didn’t feel dragged down by the description. However, the details that pop into my head are a credit to the author’s ability to make the world feel real.

Thanks for reading,

Matt