Celebrating fifteen years of original podcast science-fiction, Escape Pod offers up an anthology of fifteen stories from some of the most prominent names in the genre.
I’ve always found short story collections a nice way to sample an author’s work and decide if I might want to wade deeper into their works. This collection contains several authors I’ve read a great deal of what they’ve written (John Scalzi), some I’ve wanted to read for a while but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet (N.K. Jemison) and some that I’m aware of but haven’t picked up something from yet. Overall, it’s a pretty good collection with some interesting introductions by editors S.B. Divya and Murr Lafferty.
Being a Scalzi fan, his story stood out, though I think I’ve read it before. I will admit that Lafferty’s entry felt a bit abrupt, almost as if the author had a word or page count and just stopped writing when it was achieved. The other complaint with that story is that it’s set within the universe of her Hugo-award nominated novel and I felt like I was missing some of the contexts of the story having not read the novel first. It did make me want to seek out the book and finally get it off the to-be-read pile, so I suppose that’s something.
I’m a big fan of podcast fiction and have enjoyed the podcast this collection celebrates. I’ve read these stories were originally presented as episodes of the podcast and halfway through, I couldn’t help but wonder what they might be liked experienced as audio stories. I may have to look around a bit and give that avenue a try.
I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cultivated by Stephen King and Bev Vincent, this collection of seventeen stories about the horrors of flying is hit or miss.
The main selling point for the collection are new offerings from King and his son, Joe Hill. Reading the stories, the Hill story about a plane in the air when nuclear war erupts is chilling and utterly effective. It also sent shivers down my spine at how well it tied into my reading of Robert McCammon’s “Swan Song” around the same time. King’s offering is enjoyable enough but wasn’t one of my favorite stories from this collection. It’s a forgettable piece about the people on planes who are there to deal with turbulence. It’s an interesting little idea and a hook for the story, but it still doesn’t quite sent shivers up the spine like Hill’s does.
As for the rest of the collection, it’s also hit or miss. Of course, it’s really kind of unfair to the collection that it includes what many (including King) consider one of the definitive scary flying stories in Richard Matheson’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Once you’ve read that one, it’s all downhill from there, but that could be my Matheson bias showing through. (He’s one of the best short story writers in this reviewer’s estimation).
But as with all good short story collections, the good news is if the story you’re reading or just read isn’t quite your style, there’s another one or two coming to try. And King’s introductions to each story are nicely done. I did find a couple of new authors that I may want to read more of in the near future. So, that can’t really be all that bad a thing, right?
“It was after listening to Maurice tells his stories that I had become a firm believer that if anyone who wanted to know anything at all about humanity, all they needed to do was work a while in a restaurant.”
An intriguing short-story collection, J.L. Baumann’s Food for Thought offers up seven different regulars at Bo’s restaurant from The Deacon who works in construction, hails from Louisiana and thinks that everything is better back home to Pete the car salesman who comes in daily to break up the “droll monotony” of his existence. Bo’s interactions with his clients, staff and other members of the community drive each of these stories. Baumann expertly creates a world of unique, recognizable characters, all of whom are driven not only by their need to feed their physical hunger but find sustenance of another kind in Bo’s booths, tables and counter.
In many ways, Bo’s will remind you of the television show Cheers with a cast of quirky, endearing characters. Baumann finds motivations for each of person we encounter and we, along with Bo, learn a few interesting things about humanity. Whether it’s the determination of Didi to cook for Bo or the health inspector who used world class white gloves to ensure everything is up to code, Baumann has crafted a restaurant that makes you feel at home. There are even a few interesting surprises along the way to help keep things interesting and the characters and stories authentic.
I feel like after spending these seven stories in this world that I’d had a full, complete meal. I wouldn’t be averse to having another meal at Bo’s, though.