Review: Mrs. Schrödinger’s Cat by Gary Cuba

April 14th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
This is a good story which is almost a very good story. It is a humorous take on Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment (of which there is plenty on the internet, if you feel the need to look it up). Cuba introduces more variables into the experiment than were supposed to be there, and he also introduces us to Mrs Schrödinger as the owner of the cat. In the story, Schrödinger takes his thought experiment and, with the help of three students, actually puts it into practice. Or does he? This is where the extra variables kick in, and you’ll have to read the story to find out how they change the mix.

I say this story is almost very good. There is one logistic niggle in the story which I would otherwise overlook (and in any case, it could be written around easily enough). But what I can’t so readily overlook is the fact that the story ends far too abruptly. I know that this is probably deliberate, an echo of what the original thought experiment does. But as a story, it doesn’t work for me. I wanted more of a resolution, some other humorous trick from the author to round the whole thing off. But it wasn’t there.

Having said that, I found myself laughing at some of the antics of the experimenters, so I wouldn’t say “don’t get this story”. But I will say, if you decide to use it in an anthology because of its humorous nature, be prepared for a rather unsatisfactory finish.

Featured Anthology

April 11th, 2011

$12.95

Sandi’s Sampler:
A Tasty Blend of Speculative Fiction

At 322 pages, this anthology is packed with science fiction and fantasy goodness. Included are “Crushing Butterflies” by M.K. Hobson, “Trafficking in Stolen Gods” by Sue Burke, “Fire Dancing on Mars” by Terrie Leigh Relf, and many more.

(It also includes “Another Day at the Collider” by Gary Cuba, which renders it eligible for a Featured Writer discount.)

Review: Reunion by David W. Goldman

April 9th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
What a great story! It isn’t short, mind you. It comes in at over 90 pages, so it’s a good bit longer than your normal short story. But I promise that you won’t notice that – in fact you’ll probably be wishing it could have gone on for a bit longer. I only had two minor niggles with the whole thing.

Reunion is a cunning mix of private eye sleuthing, science fiction and laconic humour. There were quite a few one-liners which made me laugh out loud. The main character is a woman (Jenna) on an unspecified planet, who reluctantly takes on a job for the government, searching for something that I will keep secret. She isn’t actually a private eye, but she has certain talents plus a background history which the government hope will lead her to succeed where they have failed. Does Jenna succeed in her search? You’ll have to read the story to find out, but the answer is yes – and no. Heh. If that doesn’t get your interest, I don’t know what will.

The writing is good, especially the dialogue and the personal take Jenna has on the events and places described in the story. The world on which the action takes place is well described – not too much detail, but enough for it to feel real. There are lots of characters, all slightly stereotyped – but I think deliberately so, to give more immediate impact as we move through the story and its cast. My two niggles? Well, Goldman tells us at the start of the story that Jenna is no private eye, but then she slips into the job like a duck taking to water. Okay, she makes some mistakes, but she does better than most of us would if thrust into the same position. Much better. And I thought the ending could have been improved, although one of Jenna’s throwaway lines saves it from being farcical.

Minor niggles only. I really enjoyed reading this and managed it in just one sitting. If you are collating an anthology in which you want to include a (long) science fiction story, then you won’t go far wrong with Reunion.

Review: Mother by Therese Arkenberg

April 8th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
I confess I found myself curiously unmoved by this story, but I had to think about it to work out why. Its premise is that Timothy, as a child, is taken away on some sort of space ship before the Enemy comes to Home (presumably Earth, though it’s never called that in the story), and brings the End. We then find out some of the things that happen to Timothy and his best friend Adela as they grow up and, more importantly, when they grow up. It seems clear that Mother is the ship, though none of its residents seem to be quite sure of this.

The writing is competent, although I thought the speech patterns of the children a little too adult. But I didn’t find myself engaged by the characters. I found the whole thing a little simplistic. Some big issues are scooted over in a sentence or two, and characters take fundamental shifts of opinion apparently on a whim. I was also left with a lot of answered questions. What happened to the Enemy? Why were Timothy and Adela the only pair on what is presumably an enormous lifeship the only pair to act as they did? What was the basis for being chosen to go on the ship in the first place? And so on.

On reflection, I think the story tries to cover too much. There’s enough in here to fill a book, and that would give the author more time to explore the questions, conundrums, history, characters, relationships… everything, really. As it is, I think the story has an interesting premise but doesn’t quite manage to do it justice. I don’t think I could honestly recommend Mother for an anthology.

Review: Deep Red by Floris M. Kleijne

April 7th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore

I quite enjoyed Deep Red. It’s billed as “suspense/thriller” and that is a pretty accurate description. Our protagonist comes home, suspects that something is wrong but can’t put his finger on why, although it’s likely connected to a dreadful experience of a few years ago. Having made sure that everything is as it should be, he settles down to a pleasant enough evening and dozes off – whereupon he has a nightmare about his dreadful experience. When he wakes up it dawns on him that everything is not after all as it should be – and… well, the story shifts smoothly from “suspense” to “thriller” mode.

The writing is good. The construction of the story is solid, in the sense that we as readers get to know what is happening in bite-sized chunks which are well-timed from the literary point of view. There’s not a great deal of dialogue, but what there is, is realistic. And it is very easy to emphasis with the thoughts and fears of the protagonist. But…

The sharp-eyed among you will note that I said I “quite” enjoyed this story. Perhaps it’s just the way my mind works, but two things prevented this from being a great story in my eyes. Firstly, I knew what was going to happen. I know, I know, I read too many detective stories. But as soon as I realised the overall set-up of the story, I guessed what its ending was going to be, so that detracted from the suspense and thrill. Secondly, there were two specific aspects of the story that didn’t make sense to me. I can’t really say what they are without giving away the plot, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Two parts of the plot niggle at my tidy mind.

Having said all that, would I recommend this story for an anthology? I think my answer is yes, if you like suspense and thrills. I doubt that you’d notice the things I’ve carped about, unless you’ve been charged with writing a review. But the story is very genre-specific, so if you aren’t a fan of suspense and thrillers, you’d probably do best to pass.

Artificial Sentience and the Klondike

April 6th, 2011

We’ve got new stories by R.S. Pyne, James Fox, Kenneth Eng, Gary Cuba, and Jack London.

I particularly enjoyed Pity by Gary Cuba, which plays a new game with the old trope of sentient robots. Jack London’s Housekeeping in the Klondike, for those who aren’t already familiar with it, is also an entertaining read.

Featured Anthology: Carmine Tales

April 4th, 2011

$12.95

Carmine Tales
A varied collection of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy. One inspired by an old English folktale, another by a classic H. G. Wells short story – the rest may have written themselves.

New Reviewer

April 4th, 2011

I’m pleased to announce that Erica Davis has agreed to join our reviewing team. She’ll be bringing a younger perspective to stories by our featured authors, and I’m very excited to read her reviews!

Erica Davis lives in the Sunshine State where everyone loves to vacation. She has three Florida State titles and Southeastern Regional titles in baton twirling, but she’s currently going to college for Graphic Design. She’s an animal freak with a love for photography and writing but also likes to swing dance on the weekends with her significant other, David. She’s dyed her hair pink, blue, purple, green and every other color in the rainbow since she was sixteen and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Above all, she tries to enjoy life to the fullest.

Review: Crushing Butterflies by M.K. Hobson

April 2nd, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
So this is my first review for AnthologyBuilder, and I’ve certainly struck lucky with Crushing Butterflies. The story is billed as being science fiction: that and the title tell any science fiction fan that it’s a story about time travel – in fact, Ray Bradbury’s famous story about stepping on a butterfly in the past and irrevocably and profoundly changing the future is mentioned in Crushing Butterflies, although not by name. What the title doesn’t tell you – but I’m telling you now – is that this is a good science fiction time travel story. For two reasons.

The first reason, which strikes you as soon as you start reading, is that the quality of Hobson’s writing is superb. She conjures up scenes and moods with a few slick phrases; describes places and actions with a few well-placed adjectives and adverbs, without overdoing either. The dialogue is terse but feels real, and is well constructed to move along the pace as well as the plot of the story. I loved the writing style.

The second reason is that Crushing Butterflies represents a new take on the time travel theme. Now that’s not easy to do, as it’s a subject that has been battered by hundreds of authors over many years. But this is a new twist. Really. The story doesn’t go into a Star Trek frenzy of describing machinery and paradox, but puts out its ideas very simply. Hobson tells us that in the world she envisages, time travellers are common, and a nuisance. So she doesn’t bother to go into technical detail – if her world can take all that for granted, then so can we. And it works.

I liked the writing; I liked the plot; I found I could empathise with the characters. I expect if I put my thinking cap on I could find a hole in the temporal logic (pretty much by definition, there has to be one in this genre), but I found I didn’t want to. Would I recommend this story for an anthology? I think my answer must be obvious: yes, I certainly would.

Featured Writers: April 2011

April 2nd, 2011

All right, folks. Please welcome the REAL featured authors for this month, a diverse and extremely talented group.

Anthologies that include these authors’ stories will be sold at a $1.00 discount throughout the month of April, so this is an excellent opportunity to take a chance on an author you’ve never read before. Don’t let it pass you by!

Ruth Nestvold
A former assistant professor of English in the picturesque town of Freiburg near the Black Forest, Ruth Nestvold has given up theory for imagination. The university career has been replaced by a small software localization business, and the Black Forest by the parrots of Bad Cannstatt, where she lives with her fantasy, her family, her books and no cats in a house with a turret. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov’s, Baen’s Universe, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella “Looking Through Lace”won the “Premio Italia” award for best international work. Her novel Flamme und Harfe appeared in translation with the German imprint of Random House, Penhaligon, in 2009 and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. She maintains a web site at www.ruthnestvold.com.

Tracie McBride
Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. Since receiving her first acceptance email from AlienSkin in 2004, her poetry and short stories have been accepted by over 50 print and electronic publications, including Pulp.Net, Coyote Wild, Abyss and Apex, Space & Time, Sniplits and Electric Velocipede. She won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent for 2007. Although she also writes mainstream and literary fiction, speculative fiction remains her first love. For more information, go to http://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com/

Gary Cuba
Gary Cuba’s fiction has appeared in more than a score of genre and mainstream publications, including Jim Baen’s Universe, Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, Andromeda Spaceways, Brain Harvest, Fictitious Force, Allegory, New Myths, Atomjack, and others. He lives in South Carolina with his wife and scads of freeloading critters.

Stephen L. Antczak
Steve Antczak hasn’t uploaded an author bio to AnthologyBuilder. I actually know little about him, except that he’s recently begun sending material to AnthologyBuilder and that I like his writing style. He approaches speculative material from a different angle than most authors I’ve read, which results in stories that are evocative and move in unexpected directions.