Today my book review will be a bit different, I’m going over a short anthology I recently purchased. Since the collection only has four short stories, I’ll review them all. This is my second review of an anthology, but I like this format for the reviews.
If anyone has a different or better format to review an anthology, please comment below! I’ll include the actual summary of the story from the blurb and then write my thoughts on the story separately and conclude with an overall review of the collection.
Editor: Ellen Campbell
General Mikeal is a living relic, a sentient robot allowed to survive the Great AI Purge three-hundred years ago. Rewarded for siding with mankind, the general now commands the 6th Mechanized, a cadre of lethal machines. The 6th is on-planet to break the back of an uprising; inter-dimensional aliens have possessed a species, manipulating their tech for war purposes. But there are dangerous surprises on the desert planet Erudia. Ambushed by an overwhelming foe, the general has to accept the help of the one thing robots hate the most: cyborgs.
My thoughts: I’m torn on this one, because if I rated the concept, I would sing this one to the stars… but I have to rate the presentation. Keep in mind, what works for some won’t be appreciated by others. This is entirely subjective. Having said that, I found some of the sentences to be very clunky. I had to reread parts of this story several times, and if I wasn’t writing the review, I might’ve stopped reading. I’m glad I didn’t, however, because the concept was amazing! The main character, General Mikeal, was so humanistic that at first, I missed that he was a robot. I like that he made the robot feel a real person, it added depth and dimension to the overall story. The more I got into the story, the better it got. The author chose to put a lot of the world building in the middle and at the end of the story, which made for smoother reading as we progressed. Once we got to the ending, however, the author lost me again. There wasn’t so much of an ending, as the story just stopped. It felt like the author hit the word count, and then didn’t keep going. I wasn’t a fan of that approach, but if this was flushed out into a full-length novel I would buy it in a heartbeat! I give this story 3 out of 5 grenades! If this was flushed out into a novel, I could see giving it 5 out of 5 grenades and buying the next book in the series.
Pest Control by Rhoads Brazos
Summary: Millennia from now, the last member of our meddlesome species seeks atonement. As deft as a surgeon, relentless, purging the vermin—he’s grown used to the task. After so many years, he moves through his job with ease. Today might just be another workday, but the galaxy is a big place, and there’s no telling what’s in it.
My thoughts: This story started out brilliantly, and only got better from there! The main character is basically a futuristic Sci-Fi version of the Terminix Man. The blurb on the book’s Amazon page tells you that the main character, Geoff, is a futuristic human. However, when you meet him, he’s some sort of tentacled creature. The mystery of that plays throughout the whole story, and it was brilliantly executed. I loved watching it unfold as the story progressed. The writing style was great, and I would definitely read more by this author. I was a little confused at first, but I expect that with short stories. Even when I was confused, however, I was highly amused. The witty use of humor in the dialogue had me hanging on every word. This wasn’t my usual fare, but I really liked it. I said, and it’s worth repeating, I will read more by this author. The ending was unexpected and wrapped the story up nicely. I enthusiastically give this story 5 out of 5 grenades!
Imagine All Insects by SH Mansouri
Summary: Space Marine Eric Sanders wants nothing more than to rock-out on Mars with his Gibson in peace, and make a few friends along the way. But with his fellow marines hell-bent on wiping out anything that treads on four legs, Eric must choose between the sound of heavy metal or plasma rounds ripping through his new friends.
My thoughts: This story started out a little rough but got better as the story unfolded. The main character, Space Marine Eric Sanders, was what I would expect if a hippie from the 60s joined the Marine Corps and went to colonize the galaxy. Seriously, all that was missing was a peace sign and some patchouli. He wasn’t very relatable, and I didn’t like him. However, I’m old enough to remember living through parts of the Cold War, hearing about “killing a commie for your mommy” and tales of the evil “hippies” of past decades. It wasn’t that the character was badly written, he just didn’t resonate with me. His sidekick, however, was awesome. I really loved Jiminy, his pet insect named after a cricket. I did enjoy the musical interlude vibe; the author really made me hear the music in my head. He used it creatively, having it be the key to communicating with the insectoids on Mars. Nobody believes him when he says they are sentiment, which adds another level of depth to the story that I liked. It was a little heavy-handed on the preaching, but at its core was a tale of the clash of cultures. Overall, I enjoyed this story, and I would enthusiastically give this story 4 out of 5 grenades! Also, I would be willing to give this author’s other books a chance.
CON4AN the Cybarbarian by Nick Cole
Summary: R.E. Howard’s most famous character comes to life in this future horror re-imagining of the legendary Conan the Barbarian. A runaway Reaper-Model Cyborg, fleeing the Tech Sorcerers of a world gone mad, enters the post-apocalyptic kingdoms of man’s last age. Considered a barbarian and an outsider, the Cyborg soon finds himself caught up in the intrigues and cabals of an eerily familiar world where men, mutant monsters and tech magic slay and plot for power, gold and salvage. But first the machine must survive the wilds of No Man’s Land and find a name, instead of an alpha-numeric identifier. This is Terminator meets Conan the Barbarian in a sword and cyber-sorcery epic only one man could’ve imagined long ago.
My thoughts: The story was easy to jump into, but I have read a lot of the Pulp Era Sci-Fi stories. I’m not sure if it would be a smooth transition without that background. There are two main characters; Old Danwards, a scavenger, and an unnamed youth who we later find out is Conan the Barbarian. Well, CYbarbarian anyway. The characters felt a little flat, but that is expected in serial stories. Sometimes, the wording was a little bit cryptic and a tad literary, but in a good way. I thought Nick Cole pulled it off, and I was hooked. There wasn’t a scene I couldn’t picture, and I felt shades of the Fallout franchise of games while reading this. Having read a lot of Nick’s other stuff, I can say that the literary bent is just his style. Overall, the story was a neat twist on an old tale that came before my time. I enjoyed the ending; it was a satisfactory conclusion that opened up the possibility of a follow-on series. If he writes it, I will read it! I enthusiastically give this story 5 out of 5 grenades! And if you don’t agree with me, you’re probably a dirty commie hippie! Okay, I was joking… I think?
First, I need to start with the presentation of the book. I am not a fan of the cover art, it was too busy, and the image was hard to see. As I’ve mentioned before, I am colorblind, so your mileage may vary. If you loved it, start a discussion in the comments and we can talk about it! With that out of the way, let’s talk about the anthology itself. I enjoyed this collection of short stories, they were quick reads that entertained me.
At only 85 pages, I finished it in one setting. As with the anthology format, the stories will be a hit and miss. I really loved three of the four, and one just wasn’t for me. Let’s be real that is normal for an anthology, and part of what makes them useful. You get exposed to new takes on things and see the world from multiple perspectives.
I’m confident that you’ll find you like more stories than you would normally skip, hence my recommendation. Even though one of them wasn’t my thing, there were parts of it that I really loved. Like always, I went the spoiler-free approach. What does this mean for my overall ranking? I really enjoyed this collection, and happily, recommend it.
Great review. Bought the book.