Monday, August 1, 2016

Bad Guys and Brilliant Moves

Short Reviews: Three Short Stories from Endless Worlds Volume I: Seven Stories of Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction

Most of the stories in this collection were acceptable, but three were stellar. (Your mileage may vary.) I have opted to review only those three, which appear here in the same order as in the anthology. No other ranking is implied.

The Unconnected by S.J. Bryant

This dark tale of a daughter's mission to rescue her parents from their VR addiction reminded me of Spider Robinson's God is an Iron, and a little of Neo's escape from The Matrix

Tanguin is no innocent dutiful daughter: she makes her living stealing from corporations. She must create her own hacking opportunities, sometimes with malicious set-pieces that unravel the lives of others a la Mr. Robot. We get brief glimpses of this in a single passage of Tanguin through a bar/restaurant that leaves chaos in her wake.

You'll have to draw your own conclusions about Tanguin's final fate. My take-away? God may not be an iron, but does have a sense of justice.

Carbon to Carbon by James Peters

Mercenary Aegis has managed to bury his humanity underneath the cyborg-like enhancements that make him a killing machine. The killer machinery rescued him from a life of poverty as a congenital cripple, and made him valuable as a soldier

Finished with his service, free to sell his abilities to the highest bidder, he doesn't question the morality of his tasks. He just does as he has contracted to do.

But deep inside him, the young boy Aegis once was still yearns for justice, and for something to believe in. Unfortunately for his latest employer, those old yearnings are about to encounter a missionary with a gospel uniquely shaped to connect with the boy inside him.

The Missionary by Matthew Wright

Mission ship Star Witch is unfortunate twice. First, no sooner did their trip to rescue the vanished ship Annie (lost on a jaunt to a gas giant) bring them to Annie's last-known position, than the AI—which operates the ship and all its systems—died. And second, ex-Navy supercargo, Cam Suttler, is a booze-hound who is only along (in the role of Chaplain) because his drinking buddy Jacob Greunt was the pilot on Annie.

Now someone needs to shake the crew out of their panic, or Star Witch will follow Annie into oblivion. For his sins, Cam is the only savior available.

This story is pure action (think Mission of Gravity, the Hal Clement classic), with just enough concept sauce to give it a nice flavor. (Pesto, perhaps.) The afterword gives the only hint of who the bad guy might have been, and it's worth every gripping minute of tense action to reach it.

Rescue, justice, sin and redemption: the stories I enjoyed most in this collection share them as a common thread. As other reviews show, you may find different favorites. Either way, my mission is complete.