With all of the negativity in the review world lately, folks battling to be the most snarky and faux witty as they can to try and snag the most clicks, I’ve made a specific effort to keep these Book Reviews positive.
That’s the main reason for some of the gaps in between them.
I’ve read a few stinkers and didn’t want to have to come on here and be shitty, so I just quietly moved onto the next book.
So when I got the chance to get an advance copy of this book, I leapt at it…but then I started to worry.
KJA has said this is the 1st of 4 volumes, so far, collecting a bunch of his short stories.
And with that announcement, the middle 2 were the ones I was most interested in and excited for (see what they are planned to be focused on here).
Now I was worried because I do love Sci-Fi, but my taste in it has tended to be more mainstream.
Firefly/Serenity, Star Wars (I say it is Sci-Fi, damn it!), Star Trek TNG & DS9, Bruce Campbell’s Bulgarian work, things that everyone instantly thinks of when they hear talk of the genre.
I’ve never taken the dive into the hardcore stuff, which is what caused my worry.
I’ve long talked about my love of The Last Days Of Krypton (my introduction to KJA), but that’s Superman tinged Sci-Fi, not Issac Asimov or Philip K Dick.
So, with all of that in mind and now out of the way, what do I think of this Collection of the hardest of the hardcore type Sci-Fi?
Can my fandom of the man and his writing style outweigh my inexperience and trepidation with the genre?
Buckle up for a longer than usual ride, and let’s find out!
As per usual, ***This Is Your SPOILER ALERT***
For the most part, I loved it.
My main take away is that somebody desperately needs to get in contact with KJA for the upcoming reboot of The Twilight Zone.
Some, but not all, of the stories have that classic “Oh man, that’s ballsy” moment that a lot of the the best eps of Twilight Zone still elicit to this day.
The variety of the stories is another reason I think this dude needs to be in that room.
One of the main reasons I can’t stand those bullshit singing/talent shows on TV is the judges with their inane snarky comments.
“Well, I don’t like country music, so I’m gonna pass.”
It’s just plain idiotic.
If you can’t see talent from a genre you don’t like then you need to get out of the game.
I bring that up because Military Sci-Fi usually can’t hold my attention, and this book features a fair bit of it.
I can’t say it’s bad though.
Sure, some of those stories were in and out of my head as fast as I read them, but even so they were easy to read and featured KJA’s signature style of being detailed enough to get across the important stuff without bogging you down in useless, boring, jargon filled blocks of prose.
Even the worst (process of elimination dictates there must be a worst) story among these has something interesting.
In fact, one of the best stories (Combat Experience) fits into the military subgenre, so he definitely can supercede preconceived biases and hook you in for things you weren’t initially excited for.
2 of my favorite stories (Rough Draft & Music Played On The Strings Of Time) feature a company called “Alternitech” that transports employees into alternate time lines to look for subtle differences, such as movies starring alternate leads or follow-up novels that don’t exist here, that they can exploit and profit from.
The implications of that are damn near horrific, but truly fascinating.
Seeing the impact of these 2 stories on the people involved in them is pretty great, especially for us creative types.
There’s a story that’s Jurassic Park-esque (called Mammoth Dawn), it shines a light on the sadistic streak of some humans and the beauty of others while dealing with the complicated issue of screwing with the natural order.
In short, this book shows you just how versatile Anderson is.
How this genre, more than most, is a perfect fit for allegorical storytelling.
The entire arc of his career is represented here.
The book opens with his very 1st published story (Memorial, which he had published at age 14) and the penultimate story (Ghosts Of Mars) was written for his MFA courses and published online ealier this year.
The latter, you may remember me pushing that one pretty hard for a few days.
It’s a pretty cool tribute to the foundation of Sci-Fi writing.
Before each story he writes roughly half a page about the origins of what follows.
I’ve not read a ton of short story collections in my day, but that was new to me.
It added a nice bit of weight and background to each bit of business that followed.
There are a bunch of other stories in here that I dig, but I can’t wrap up without mentioning 3 others that I really loved, 2 of which he wrote for XPrize.
The 1st one is called The Next Best Thing To Being There, inspired by a true story, this story is a heartbreaking, yet sweet, tale of a climber connecting with loved ones through technology after an accident on a trek.
The 2nd of the XPrize stories is called Terminal, about a plane that travels 20 years into the future (one of those Twilight Zone stories I mentioned) and gives a woman a new lease on life.
Both of these are emotional and oddly hopeful in their own ways.
The final story I have to mention is called Paradox & Greenblatt, Attorneys At Law.
It’s the lightest story, in terms of tone, in this collection.
It feels like Perry Mason meets The Twilight Zone, and like it could be set in the future of the Dan Shamble universe.
This is a case of a dude time traveling to take out his mother’s boss, and he gets off on a paradoxical technicality that’s pure genius.
He says in the preamble for this story that he always intended to write more stories in this series and I really hope he gets around to it because I could see it being just as fun and interesting as DSZPI is.
This being a different genre than what I’m used to from KJA (his DC & Shamble works are what I know him for, so far), it’s great to see his take on a different genre than I’m used to.
So the bottom line is: If you are a fan of KJA, Sci-Fi and all of the subgenres within it, or just damn good writing, you’re probably gonna like this.
It has great variety in the themes, emotions, and styles displayed.
And it’s just a great idea to have this all collected in 1 handy volume.
I really can’t wait for the other 3 volumes to drop so I can see him flex even more muscles.
It’s available on August 15th in Paperback & Hardcover, you can pre-order the kindle version right now by going Here.
Special Thanks to @acferrell1976 for helping me proofread these reviews.