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Jun 04

Space Battles – Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

About the book

Red Alert! Red Alert!
This is not a dril…

Anna Paradox’s “Between The Rocks”: The Courtly Vizier, a utility truck, renders aid to a colony ship but when they return to their asteroid home from supply runs to mines on Old Lumpy from Jupiter’s atmosphere, the colony ship they once helped attacks them. But the situation is not what it seems, and strange circumstances are at hand.

David Lee Summers’ “Jump Point Blockade”: While pirating a mine on an asteroid, Captain Ellison Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy find themselves forced into battle by Captain Stewart of the New New Jersey, serving as shields against the Alpha Comans at a jump point to Rd’dyggia. But instead of obeying Captain Steward, Firebrandt has plans of his own.

Jean Johnson’s “Joystick War”: Scavenging a storage bunker for salvage, Scott Grayson and Rrenn F’sauu stumble onto mint condition Targeting Drone A.I.’s, joystick controlled combat suits, and can’t resist taking them for a test run. Then an old enemy, the Salik turn up, and instead of joy rides, they’re fighting for their lives and their people…

Mike Resnick & Brad Torgersen’s “Guard Dog”: Watchfleet sentinel Chang leads a lonely life of extended, dream-filled sleeps in between frenetic, life-or-death battles. The Sortu had almost defeated humanity and the lives of everyone, including his wife and son, depend on men like him. Then, called to battle again, he finds himself up against the last opponent he’d ever expected…

These and more stories await inside…

All personnel,
report to battle stations!

264 pages (paperback)
Published on: April 18, 2012
Published by: Flying Pen Press
Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s webpage

This book was a review copy sent by the editor.

—–

Space Battles is an anthology I was asked to review, which I reluctantly accepted. The reason I say I reluctantly accepted it because science fiction short stories can be rather hard for me to get into or really enjoy – not because they are terrible, but because I have a hard time grasping the advanced science and technology in a few short pages. The truth is, I think it takes a special author to make these hard-to-understand concepts easy to visualize. Another issue I have with reviewing short stories is rather ridiculous. I haven’t perfected the art, so bare with me while I find my short-story-reviewing wings.

Now, as I mentioned above, I have a hard time visualizing the advanced worlds science fiction generally takes place in. However, the short stories in Space Battles don’t really require a ton of science learning or visualization to understand. That’s a huge benefit for readers like me. The stories in this book can each be enjoyed fully in their few pages. Now, readers who enjoy a bit more advanced science and complex world building in their short stories might want to look elsewhere. Most of these stories take you for an entertaining ride through high-octane battles (as you’d expect from the title) and spend minimal time on hardcore advanced science concepts and ideas.

This focus on events rather than world building really helps the reader enjoy this anthology for what it is. It’s an enjoyable ride through some very entertaining science fiction adventures. It should be noted that many of these stories also lack a depth and memorability, but sometimes you don’t want to read something deep. Sometimes you just want to read about some serious battles/carnage and forget about everything else. If that’s your mood, then Space Battles will work for you.

That being said, as with every anthology, some stories will work with readers better than others. I’m not going to go over each story individually, because I think half the enjoyment of a short story collection is to see what stories will work for what readers. However, I will note that most of the authors in this collection aren’t very well known. In fact, the few I had heard of was Patrick Hester, Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Mike Resnick (though I also am not amazingly well read in SciFi, which is probably obvious). That’s not a deterrent, but that sort of thing does matter to some readers so I thought I’d mention it here.

The reason I note the fact that many of these authors aren’t incredibly well known is because some of these stories read like how I’d picture many first published works to read. For example, most of these stories lacked some sort of balance which, occasionally made them seem slightly amateur. While they all were very entertaining, this lack of balance was paid for. Short stories are tricky. Due to the fact that they are so short they often have to strike the balance between world building and the events that transpire much more exactly than novels would. If there is too much or too little of something it can be more acutely felt, and there is far less wiggle room for an author to make up for it.

The Thirteens by Gene Medros was one of my favorite stories in the book, but for a short story, it spent far too much time on background and buildup, which made the action and resolution seem rushed. On the flip side, Between the Rocks by Anna Paradox didn’t have enough background and buildup and too much time on action. Though the action and story was entertaining, the author never quite managed to make me care about the characters or the events that transpired. On the flip side, my favorite story in the anthology was First Contact by Patrick Hester. While it did have some obvious scifi influences, and the ending was a bit odd, Patrick has some solid writing, great descriptions and seems to strike the balance so many other stories struggled with almost perfectly.

Outside of the less known names, there are also some heavy hitters. Space Battles ends with a short story by Mike Resnick and Brad R. Torgerson, which is worth reading the book for. Mike Resnick is a name nearly everyone will know and Guard Dog is a very powerful story, striking an amazing balance between action and character/world development. In fact, I felt that Guard Dog was also one of the most thoughtful stories in the anthology. This story really packs a punch and leaves Space Battles on a very memorable note.

The unifying theme of Space Battles is just that, battles. However, it’s interesting to see how each author has a unique twist on the future and the battles they describe. These stories feature a wide range of themes and main characters, from humans to aliens and each features a battle based on a wide range of trials whether they are societal, cultural, religious or whatever else. It’s actually rather interesting to see the wide range of ideas based on the space battles theme.

At the end of the day, Space Battles isn’t an anthology I’m going to remember too long, but it was worth reading. That might sound like a contradiction, but it’s really not. Space Battles isn’t incredibly deep, or very memorable, but it’s a ton of fun. While many of the authors aren’t very well known, it’ll be interesting to watch these names and see who ends up doing what in future years. Some of these stories show real potential not only with writing style, but also because some of these stories seem like they’d make some really fascinating novels.

3.5/5 stars

2 comments

3 pings

  1. Paul Weimer (@princejvstin)

    Thanks, Sarah!

    I’m glad you particularly liked Patrick’s work, since I am wishing good things for his efforts.

  2. Peter

    I read the collection as well and generally agree with your comments. It’s interesting what you “have a hard time grasping the advanced science and technology in a few short pages.” I often feel the same with fantasy, except with magic systems and creatures. It seems the further one strays from the familiar (take China Mieville, for instance), the more difficult it is to contain in a short story.

    Cool site.

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