There are four stories in this book, so I guess it qualifies as an anthology. However, I usually consider anthologies to be at least 10 stories… maybe 8 (just to be generous).
Let me say this first: I recommend buying this book. Not every story is for everyone. Some of the stories spoke to me, while others did not. My co-author had some completely different opinions. So, maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m right. Maybe we’re both wrong. Decide for yourself.
First Story: General Mikeal by A.K. Meek
This story struck my fancy. For others, it did not. My only complaints, besides some technical mistakes with the writing, was that there was so much information introduced, I felt like someone had just made a ham sandwich for me but forgot the ham.
Meek introduces giant robots called “Mexican Spiders”, an event called “The Thanos Excursion” and others that he never fully explains. As such, the story seems like a setup, or introduction, for a larger universe that we only get a hint at.
Besides that, I loved the story. I’ll try not to give any spoilers, but here it goes:
General Mikeal is a robot. He used to work in a mine on Mars. He’s made out of the stuff they dug up, so he’s really tough, as is his sword. (Yup, there’s a big, awesome sword, but trust me, it works in the story.) He’s tasked with fighting a war literally because they ran out of options. Turns out, he’s really good at it.
I loved the Mikeal… but I barely remember the rest of the characters. If that was intentional, then Meek did a fantastic job. If not… well, there’s always next time.
I’d rate this story 4/5 for its cleverness, main character, and uniqueness.
Second Story: Pest Control by Rhoads Brazos
How have I never heard of Brazos?! This was by far my favorite story. I tend to like funny stories the best, and this one was a hoot!
Again, I’ll try not to spoil it, but here it goes…
There are aliens. Aliens have… well… cooties. In order to prevent their cooties from infesting the entire universe, there are checkpoints at stargates. The main character runs a service that exterminates any cooties the ships have.
I won’t spoil it by telling you how, but it’s epic. Really epic!
The only down-side to the story that I could find was that I don’t understand the ending. There are two possible things it could mean… but because I can’t figure out which one it is, or if it’s something completely different, I can’t give this full marks. Had the ending been more clear, I would have given it 5/5.
I rate this story 4/5, only because I hated the ending.
Third Story: Imagine All the Insects by S.H. Mansouri
Not my favorite story. Ever. Sorry, but this one didn’t speak to me at all. But, I’ll try to give an overview, again, without any spoilers.
A space Marine makes friends with a bug. I like the bug. He calls it Jiminy, like the cricket. The main character discovers that though the bugs are dangerous, it’s a transponder (of sorts) that the government has installed which is causing them to go crazy. In fact, turn the transponders off and they’re cool. Play music for them (they prefer hard rock) and they’re way more than cool. They’re super-smart too. The other Marines don’t like it and decide to squash all the bugs on the planet.
This story, in my opinion, is a political story about not interfering in the lives of others, accommodating others and how everything is our fault.
Sorry, but this one gets 2/5. The story was well-constructed, but the weak main character and preachy nature turned me off.
Fourth Story: C0N4N THE CYBARBARIAN
Besides the silly title, which actually fits the story, I found this one hard to absorb… at first.
Nick Cole has a reputation for writing… different stories. Nothing like this. So I had to wrap my head around the prose (which was elegant) the description (which was subtle) and the plot (which was nuanced). But, here’s the basics.
A guy wakes up from… something. He wanders around a bit. Someone else is watching him, trying to figure him out, but the reader doesn’t know why any of it is happening yet. Turns out, the guy who woke up is not only a badass, but he’s a cybernetic badass. He doesn’t have a name, just a number. The setting is a dystopian future that seems hauntingly real.
I was confused and had to read the first couple of pages at least four times to really wrap my head around it. Once I did, though… once I understood what the setting was and got used to the style of writing, I found myself completely absorbed.
There’s not a lot of character development, but the action is fantastic. And, Nick, if you’re reading this… I want to know what happens next. Continue the story. Do it.
As you’ve already read, I prefer funny stories. It’s my thing… at least right now it is. But I did love the story. It reminded me a lot of The Arkhe Principle by Maxwell Rudolph. If you liked one, you’ll like the other. Simple as that.
Because it’s not a humor story and I’m a humor snob, 4/5.
As a whole, I’d give this book, all four stories collected into it, a 4/5. The ones I loved were so good, the ones I didn’t wouldn’t dissuade me from buying it.