February 28, 2017

J.R. Rain et al.: "Darkscapes"

Title: Darkscapes [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: J.R. Rain et al. [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2017
Age: 14+ (the anthology is geared to adults, but a mature teen can enjoy most of it. At least two of the stories feature teens/kids)
Stars: 3.5
Pros: A bunch of often imaginative, at times surprising stories, covering a wide range of genres and eras.
Cons: On the other hand, maybe the collection is a tad too eclectic and lacks focus. Also, the quality spectrum varies from high to less impressive.
Will appeal to: Those who enjoy a wide selection of tales, some bolder than the others.

Blurb: Curiosity Quills Press explores yearning, regret, and fear with the Darkscapes Anthology - a spellbinding collection of dark fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror, and detective fiction. Delve into worlds of terrible family secrets, unexpected doppelgängers, a home invasion on an alien planet, androids and assassins, places and people who aren’t as stable as they seem, frustrated musicians going to desperate lengths - and more. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this anthology from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. Here goes... 

ON THE FENCE

Confession/disclaimer: when it comes to spinning a tale, short stories are not my favourite medium. Anthologies can be hit or miss for me. I requested this one because 1) I had previously read and loved another Curiosity Quills collection called Windows into Hell, and 2) I saw that Darkscapes featured a couple of authors whose novels I appreciate(d). All in all, I had a good time reading most of these stories (and the authors I mentioned above didn't disappoint), but honestly, I wasn't able to connect with all of them. I suppose this says more about me than about their quality though, in most cases. Anyway, there are a bunch of stories in here that mean more to me than the others, and a few of them actually went in unexpected directions. Here is what worked for me and what left me wanting more... [...]

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

It's not a secret that I am a B.C. Johnson fan (I reviewed the three books he put out so far: Deadgirl, Deadgirl: Ghostlight and Riven - previously titled The Bad Rescue of Devon Streeter). Roomies is my favourite story in the collection, because it's the right blend of out-there, tragic and funny, with a protagonist you care about and a creative (if creepy) ending. It's the goriest of the bunch, too.
Close second is Out of Sight by Matthew S. Cox. I reviewed his YA novel Nine Candles of Deepest Black, and this story (the longest in the collection) confirms his knack for writing realistic, tridimensional kids. It's a survival story about a teen and a bunch of youngsters on a dangerous planet, not a new concept, but the characters' interaction is solid and lovely.
Circular Argument by Darin Kennedy is a cool - and haunting - variation on the time-loop concept. Just out of honesty, I have to say that I cringed at the use of "it's" for "its" in one sentence. The story is still cool though.
A Match Made in Heaven by Randy Attwood is different, visionary and challenging. It's a sci-fi story, but it hits close to home now that women's rights and their place in the world are starting to get questioned again...
As a huge music aficionado, Lena's Song by Benjamin Sperduto both fascinated me and creeped me out to no end. In a seemingly not-so-distant future, music alone is not enough to get you hooked. Apparently, the consumption method has changed drastically...and singers/musicians have to adapt or die. Except they're not the ones who risk the latter. How far would you go in order to really connect with your audience?
The One You Feed by Katie Young is the kind of tale you think you have all figured out until you haven't. Not my usual scenery - on the surface it's a cowboy story - but I had to appreciate the new spin on a classic trope.
Heart of the Harvester by Richard Roberts is a sombre sci-fi fable with an unexpected ending and a teen male lead. A near (?) future version of your usual rite-of-passage story. I appreciated that it was able to take me by surprise.

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS

I'm naming no names, but among the stories that I didn't mention in the above list, some failed to impress me because they didn't bring enough novelty on the table. Some lacked the punch. Some just had the misfortune of not belonging to my favourite genres. Some were okay, but left me a bit cold. Some had a nice message, but sounded like they came straight-out of a children storybook. Some were funny, or even absurd enough to set a precedent, but I wasn't able to understand the point of their being peculiar - or they failed to deliver in some other respect for me. For example, to a palate used to Agatha Christie mysteries and Law & Order cases, a detective story must taste REALLY fine or go home. And here's the thing - I feel like I would have enjoyed this collection more had it been more cohesive, like the excellent Windows into Hell. I know that, most of the time, anthologies are put together with the intent to have something in them for everyone, but in this case at least, all the different genres, styles and eras make for an uneven reading experience. Having said this, there are a bunch of very good stories in here, and they largely make up for those I didn't particularly cared about. I bet you'll find something to love yourselves if you give this anthology a chance.

For more books that defy categories click here.

4 comments:

  1. It sounds like the ones that worked for you were enough to recommend overall.

    I read a romance anthology recently that was so scattered in tone that it really threw me off.

    I do like variety in my anthologies but too much can be jarring.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anthologies are tricky beasts. I always say that I'm not much of a short-stories gal, but I'm acquiring a taste for them. I like it when they are more cohesive though. On the other hand, people who get bored easily may be interested in a little more variety of genres and styles...

      Delete
  2. What a pity this failed to work for you overall! I do find this to be a huge problem when it comes to anthologies too...but then, I don't usually pick them up either :D Despite the ones that did NOT work for you, the ones that did sound really great, though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually go for anthologies if they sport authors I already know (and like) or a theme that really interests me (like afterlife). But a common theme for all the stories is not easy to find. Windows into Hell was exceptional...in both meanings of the word.

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