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Science Fiction Super Pack #1: A generally above-average anthology

Science Fiction Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Like the companion fantasy volume, Science Fiction Super Pack #1, edited by Warren Lapine, only has one story I didn't think was good, and it's a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction. H.P. Lovecraft's overwrought prose doesn't do much for me even when Lovecraft himself writes it, and much less so when it's attempted by imitators. And Lovecraft's stories at least have something frightening that happens in them; these two stories (in this volume and the other) only have visions of aspects of the Mythos and crazy people ranting, which isn't scary or interesting. Everything else was good, occasionally even amazing.

Again like the fantasy volume, it more or less alternates between recent stories by moder... Read More

What is a Superhero?: A nice introduction to superheroes

What is a Superhero? by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan (editors)

What is a Superhero?, a collection of 25 essays edited by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan, doesn’t aim to present “the” answer to this oft-asked question. Instead, it throws open to the door to an array of answers (some of which are directly contradictory) from people across a wide spectrum of fields: philosophers, psychologists, comic book creators, cultural critics, etc. If, as is almost always the case in any collection, the individual essays vary in quality of insight, depth, and style, taken as a whole, What is a Superhero? makes for an always enjoyable and sometimes insightful or thought-provoking read.

The book is divided into four broad sections: a definition of the superhero centering particularly on the three-legged stool of “mission, powers, and identity,” an examination of the role of “context, culture, and c... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear... Read More

Schemers: Stories of complex plans and gut wrenching betrayals

Schemers by Robin D. Laws (editor)

Schemers is a collection of short stories by an excellent list of authors: Jesse Bullington, Tobias Buckell, Ekaterina Sedia, Jonathan L. Howard, Nick Mamatas, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Tania Hershman, Kyla Lee Ward, Robyn Seale, Laura Lush, Molly Tanzer, John Helfers, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer.  These are stories of complex plans and gut wrenching betrayals. It is a great theme for a collection of short stories. I've been struggl... Read More

Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction

Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood

In their introduction to Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, editors Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood offer up their motivation for the collection:
We hope to inject the short-fiction market . . . with an extra serving of undisguised wonder at the possibilities the future may hold [and] give the next generation of speculative readers and writers a taste . . . of the infinite possibilities inherent in both the science fiction genre and the short story form [and to] represent a wider range of viewpoints than is typically seen in American popular culture.
That’s a lot to aim at and more power to them for putting this collection of twenty-one stories and a dozen poems together with that goal in mind. I’d like to say they fully succeed, but as with most anthologies (at least in my experience), ... Read More

Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume I

Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume 1 edited by Anthony Rivera & Sharon Lawson

Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume One, is a publication of Grey Matter Press, a small publisher of all genres of horror. The anthology has no theme — something of a rarity these days, when most anthologies are restricted to a particular type of monster (zombie, werewolf, vampire; you know the drill). Few of the writers who contributed stories to this anthology are known to me, though there are a few big names. It’s a solid collection of stories, edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson to fine effect.

The anthology opens with one of the strongest stories. “Mister Pockets” by Jonathan Maberry is set is his PINE DEEP universe, several years after the events of... Read More

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: For a dose of crazy genius

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the latest themed anthology edited by John Joseph Adams — and it’s another good one. This time, Adams has collected a set of short stories featuring the hero’s (or often superhero’s) traditional antagonist: the mad genius, the super-villain, the brilliant sociopath who wants to remold the world in his own image — or occasionally, maybe, just be left alone in his secret lair to conduct spine-tingling experiments that, as an unfortunate side-effect, may cause drastically rearranged geography, rampant mutation, or major extinction events.

Under the editorial direction of John Joseph Adams, this anthology offers an impressively varied view on this archetypical character. Some stories refer back to mad geniuses you’ll be familiar with (Frankenstein, Lex Luthor). Some of them feature ... Read More

Oz Reimagined: You might not even find yourself in Oz

Oz Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams

Oz Reimagined is a collection of tales whose characters return as often, if not more often, to the "idea" of Oz as opposed to the actual Oz many of us read about as kids (or adults) and even more of us saw in the famed MGM version of the film. As its editors, John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, say in their introduction: "You might not even find yourself in Oz, though in spirit, all these stories take place in Oz, regardless of their actual location." And actually, I personally found my favorites in here mostly to be those stories that did not hew too closely with Baum's characters or plots, but instead took the characters and skewed them, or sent them down a different path than the yellow-bricked one. Though as is often the case with anthologies, I found the collection as a whole a mixed bag, its stories evoking reactions varying from distaste to "meh" to "interesting" to "now that was cool."
... Read More

Limbus, Inc.: Five horror novellas

Limbus, Inc. edited by Anne C. Petty

Limbus, Inc., is a set of five novellas by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Jonathan Maberry, Joseph Nasisse, Anne C. Petty and Brett J. Talley all set in the same universe, involving the same mysterious employment agency. The stories vary in quality, and have a frame that is used inconsistently It’s a cool concept, but it loses something in the translation from idea to page.

The prologue describes how Ichabod Templeton takes a leather-bound book to a used bookstore owned by Matthew Sellers. Matthew is facing the prospect of closing the bookstore and getting a “real” job... Read More