(Victory Fiction, Jan 2017, pb, 276pp.)
Reviewed by Rick Cartwright
Freedom's Light is an eclectic collection of short stories that examines various concepts of freedom and how it affects individuals.
In the “Tenth Righteous Man” Nitay Arbel examines the question of where one's loyalties really lie, to the people or to leaders who are undeserving of that loyalty. The ending was not exactly what I was expecting, which made it a better story for not being predictable. The author provides a bonus at the end with a postscript as to the inspiration for the tale.
“Martian Sunrise” by Matthew Souders is an emotional piece about a woman on a Mars exploratory mission, working through the emotions caused by the death of her estranged mother. The story is set against the backdrop of a dangerous Martian storm, and as the protagonist works out the problems caused by the storm on Mars, the storm of her emotions leads to some surprising revelations of their own. The story is well crafted and interesting. The resolution is never in doubt, but the writing keeps you reading.
Lori Janeski’s “Backwater” examines how revolutions begin, or are started. Set on a far future Mars, “Backwater” pits sturdy farmer folk who want to just be left alone against an encroaching, statist “Interplanetary Commonwealth” reminiscent of stories leading up to the American revolution While the story is well crafted, it ends on a cliffhanger with a reference to a “coming soon.” Read at your own risk.
“The Birthday Party” by Daniella Bova is neither science fiction nor fantasy. Not to say that it is not a good story. The tale resonates especially well with people who are of an age who recall growing up in the South in the 50s and 60s who wondered what shaped their parents and grandparents. For others, it's an unvarnished look at life in the rural South of the early 20th Century. It is worth your time to read.
In “Dollars on the Nightstand” Bokerah Brumley writes a cautionary tale about regulations gone wild with the message hidden by an amusing side story of the father of an adult daughter and her good-natured teasing of her widowed father. The main concern with the story is that in the processing of setting up the self-sufficient backstory of the protagonist, the author essentially takes away the reason for the conflict to happen. This makes it very difficult to suspend disbelief.
“The City” by A. G. Wallace is a coming of age story set in a robot run city. The reader, along with the main character Kiral, comes to the growing realization that not all is as it seems in the City, leading up to the main character and others choosing their future. The ending seemed a bit forced and muddled, but may appeal to those with a liking for dystopian tales.
“The Nomod” deals with the consequences of using genetic modification to specialize humans to perform various roles. Henry Vogel does an excellent job of storytelling. He manages to both be entertaining and cautionary at the same time, telling a credible story while not being heavy handed with a “message.” The story is structured around an administrator interrogating an unmodified human or “nomod.” As the tale progresses, the reader is left wondering who is questioning who and which person is really in charge of the situation. An excellent read and well worth your time..
“Sara” by Chris Donahue is something of a pastiche of the universes of Brave New World and 1984. Set in a rigorously classed society under constant government surveillance and a war footing, Sara, or Delta-F-S316a19, quietly rebels by engaging in proscribed behavior that a free society would consider a normal night out. The story is an interesting mix of two well known totalitarian universes that spawns a unique tale.
Marina Fontaine examines an artist finding hope and true friends in a hopeless situation in “Room to Breathe.” Ms. Fontaine describes a dystopian, conformist world where people are forcibly relocated to urban areas, your school friends are picked for you, and nonconforming art is destroyed by the hand of its creator. In this world a high schooler named Daniel is rescued from despair by a neighbor who not only introduces him to a refuge for his art but provides him with the spark to light the way for others out of similar situations.
“Victory Garden” by Tom Rogneby pits John against a petty bureaucrat who forces him to give up his garden. Deciding to hide his garden in the woods, John discovers a time capsule left by his late father containing what the world now considers subversive reading material. The issue that I have with the story is that it feels incomplete. You want to know what John is going to do after reading the contents of the cache of documents, but the story ends there with nothing more.
Brad R. Torgersen is one of the rising stars of SF and while “The Unsent Letter” is not a science fiction story as such, the mystery posed to the protagonist by finding an old unaddressed letter to a child by a father that did not return from deployment, is solved through the use of 21st century technology. Fair warning, this is an intense, gut wrenching story. If you like fluff, this is not it. Read the story, it is the best of the anthology.
“Credo Man” by Carol Kean is a time travel story wrapped in a mystery, with a test of marital loyalty added as a side issue. While the story is technically well crafted, it just wasn’t engaging. I couldn’t work up a lot of empathy for what happened to the characters, and some of the situations seemed a bit forced.
In “The Fighting Beagles” Nick Cole pens a humorous farce about a decidedly British group of fighting men and their adventure with the “command-o” team The Fighting Beagles. If you were ever a fan of the classic TV series Hogan’s Heroes you will like this story. A fun read that leaves you chuckling and able to clearly root for the good guys.
“Shirt Story” by Arlan Andrews deals with a rather novel response to the current political divide in the U.S. In essence, you ignore the people who don’t agree with you and in this setup two separate nations occupy the same physical space while being separated in cyberspace. The story recounts the day of a cybercop in this world. The story was well crafted and funny in places but I couldn’t suspend disbelief to really enjoy the tale.
W. J. Hayes pits an industrialist against a Cthulhu like creature for control of a piece of property in “Polk’s Prophetic Property.” It’s an engaging story and an interesting twist on the Old Ones.