“Fidelity” by Angie Lofthouse
“White Ribbons, Red Roses” by David M. Fitzpatrick
“Freedom’s Fire” by Bill Snodgrass
“Sturoq of Dunhugel” by Peter J. Welmerink
“Janibots, Inc.” by Terofil Alexander Gizelbach
“Sparks’ War” by Donnie Clemons
The cover of this 189 page anthology, edited by Edward Knight and David M. Fitzpatrick, seems fitting for the “journey into the unknown” that speculative fiction is famous for. Filled with seven stories by authors whose writings I’ve become familiar with since becoming a reviewer, I felt a childlike eagerness swell within me as I started reading. Will the child in me stay satisfied with the stories within? We’ll soon find out:
Intelligent life is discovered on another planet, and the Earth is about to get smashed by an asteroid in “Riding out the Legacy” by Sandy Parsons. As a long shot chance to insure the survival of Humanity, the Legacy, a generation ship, is sent to the new planet, boarded by ninety-nine of Earth’s best and brightest along with the DNA samples of thousands of others. Early on, a bit of Darwinian competition develops among the crew and passengers, but amidst an unforeseen plague, they must learn to work together, or all on board will be lost. It’s a well told story about social politics, survival, and the human spirit.
In “Fidelity” by Angie Lofthouse, Jackie and Nik are palace guards genetically altered for loyalty. During the prince’s coronation, an assassination attempt leaves Nik injured by a dagger containing a pathogen that deactivates her loyalty programming. Jackie finds himself caught between his loyalty to the new king and his love for Nik. But the king no longer trusts them and orders their execution. They escape through the help of a member of The Untainted, a group of rebels thought to have been eradicated by the former king, who refused the mandatory gene splices. Lofthouse’s story is loaded with great action and characterization, but I did not like where the story ended. I felt that too much was left open. This story would’ve worked better as a longer piece, perhaps as a novel.
In “White Ribbons, Red Roses” by David M. Fitzpatrick, Will Duncan loses his wife and daughter in an airlock accident after exiting a wormhole right into a cluster of meteors. He blames himself and is unable to cope with his guilt. He quits his job and goes to Vazhgar, a planet inhabited by “wizards” and “mystics.” Only Vazhgar is in the Malkorian Empire, enemies to humans, and illegal to travel to. He buys passage on a transport piloted by Tass Weaverly, an independent woman with her own tragic past. An emotional, character-oriented story, it leads to a logical but expected conclusion. Despite knowing the outcome ahead of time, the two main characters drive the story and keep you reading.
Set in the world of Siliar, “Freedom’s Fire” by Bill Snodgrass introduces you to a young dwarf named Korgoth. He and his fellow dwarves are slaves to the dragons who are in a long-lasting war against all of Siliar. Korgoth plans to escape to freedom, and in his attempt to free himself, he becomes the leader of a mass escape. Snodgrass weaves the action and adventure with a detailed culture and setting in a manner that allows the story to stand on its own. I felt the fight between Korgoth and the dragon dragged a little, but overall it was a very enjoyable read.
“Sturoq of Dunhugel” by Peter J. Welmerink is a sad tale. Sturoq wakes up to find his home town, Dunhugel, in flames and under attack by a mercenary company riding demonic horses. Hunted through the streets of Dunhugel, he finds he is the only survivor. He seeks to discover who sent the mercenaries and get revenge, but the truth he finds brings him to the edge of despair. The story is gripping in its emotion, and the surprises in it keep the anticipation level high. This one would have been better as a longer tale. I’ll be looking for a sequel.
Another robot story by Terofil Alexander Gizelbach, “Janibots Inc.,” is a clever, hilarious riot of a tale. Lou Staminsky meets Glennard Marcus Newcomb the Third, a down-and-out inventor obsessed with order and cleanliness. Glenn introduces his “janibot” to Lou, a device designed specifically for home and office cleaning. Lou offers to be Glenn’s partner in manufacturing and promoting the janibots. But Glenn’s plans go beyond profit and into a “utopian” ideal of a worldwide police state governed by non-violent bots designed to maintain order and peace. Of course, the new utopia isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and soon a revolution ensues, one filled with riotous comedy. In the tradition of Asimov, Hamilton’s robot tale sheds light on basic human nature; in this case, humanity’s need for free will and how its importance trumps the need for peace and security. This is a story I’d like to see made into a movie some day, provided the movie-makers have the wisdom to do it right.
“Sparks’ War” by Donnie Clemons is a witty, rowdy space opera. Mackenzie Sparks is a former war hero (that some call a thug) who’s now in the “resale business” (i.e. a galactic junk dealer) after being released from prison. Buying cans of what appears to be molecular spray paint leads Sparks to be framed for the murder of the two Manturians he bought the paint from. Pursued by Nettles, the officer who put him away last time and who still has a vendetta against him, Sparks seeks to clear his name. But to do so, he will have to enlist the aid of his daughter, whom he hasn’t seen in over fifteen years. This story has everything—action, adventure, mystery, and family drama—set in a well-developed galaxy. SF purists may not like the story due to the lack of any realistic explanation of how any of the spaceships can get from one system to the next without taking years or decades, but I found it a fun read where the characterization and plot more than make up for that lack.
Publisher: Journey Books Publishing 2005
Trade Paperback: 189 pages