As with any collection, there were stories here that worked better for me than others, but all of them had some aspect that appealed. It was an overall strong grouping with a few exceptional ones. Collections are difficult to review as a whole, so I’ll just put my reactions to the stories below. I only commented on one of the essays, but the personal narratives of those involved in the contest were interesting to read. You will note that I don’t comment on the illustrations. While I enjoyed most of them, I didn’t feel I could rightly comment when I was seeing the scaled down, black and white versions as I read this as an eBook on my Kindle.
I found the choice to put the teasers way in the front of the book interesting, but the technique didn’t work for me as the tentative interest had disappeared by the time I read through the extra material of the introduction. This didn’t mean I stopped reading, but it did mean I did not read with anticipation for any particular story.
The book starts out strong with:
Another Range of Mountains written by Megan E. O’Keefe illustrated by Sarah Webb
I am about the worst reader for this type of story. Not only did I correctly identify the beginning as a bridging sequence, but the solution was well seeded so I knew the answer to both story questions long before they were revealed in the text. So why do I call it a strong start? Simply because the story, revealed early or not, is powerful and the characters are compelling. It also offers an interesting talent put to good use and crucial to the tale that unfolds. It’s hard to surprise me without cheating, but it’s also hard to keep me interested once I’ve figured everything out. This story succeeded.
Shifter written by Paul Eckheart illustrated by Michael Talbot
This was the oddest little story and there were several points when I almost walked away. Almost. That’s the key word. This is definitely a nontraditional narrative, but there is an underlying plot beneath the events and a very bizarre unique element that is story critical. I wasn’t sure I like the ending until I reached the end. And then I did.
Beneath the Surface of Two Kills written by Shauna O’Meara illustrated by Cassandre Bolan
I didn’t exactly like the end of this story, but the rest had me enraptured. Either of the two twined plots would not have engaged me, but the evocative writing and the parallels drawn between the two stories were painful in their appropriateness.
Artistic Presentation by L. Ron Hubbard
Can’t say I agree with the pointed fingers in this essay, but the concept is quite telling. The more people work hard in order to do nothing, the less they engage with life. I’ll bet he would have loved the growing do-it-yourself movement while 3-D printers epitomize the automation that assists great effort rather than replacing it.
Beyond All Weapons written by L. Ron Hubbard illustrated by Adam Brewster
It’s hard sometimes to read the older stories for me. There are stylistic differences with the tale told more than shown, but it’s the social assumptions that are worse. He’d never done any reading on pioneer women clearly with the assumption that they’d keel over and die without enough male technicians. You need one to train the rest. However, what is more interesting to me is how the story lost its rudder because of the change in common knowledge and became a story of the captain’s arrogance and ignorance rather than a dawning comprehension of time dilation, something that’s common now. When it was read originally, not knowing that element would have left everything building in anticipation denied.
Animal written by Terry Madden illustrated by Seonhee Lim
Loved the ending. I didn’t expect it, but it was grounded when it came. The story is poignant and hits home.
Rainbows for Other Days written by C. Stuart Hardwick illustrated by Andrew Sonea
Interesting choice to have this follow after the previous story. The two stories explore the same theme from opposite angles. This one is evocative and poignant as it explores the consequences and costs of humanity’s choices.
Giants at the End of the World written by Leena Likitalo illustrated by Trevor Smith
This one is largely a mood piece. We’re given just enough to understand the world and enough to recognize what drives the characters. There isn’t a big moment, no huge fanfare, but there’s a choice to be made. It’s a thinking story and good one at that.
Carousel written by Orson Scott Card illustrated by Vincent-Michael Coviello
This is a weird story, but in a neat way. Human desires are taken to their logical conclusion with interesting results.
The Clouds in Her Eyes written by Liz Colter illustrated by Kirbi Fagan
Another interesting but odd story. All writing advice says active characters, but many of these stories have neither. They focus more on mood and informing the reader of the state of the world. This one demonstrates both, showing a post-apocalyptic world, but one where a form of magic exists.
What Moves the Sun and Other Stars written by K.C. Norton illustrated by Kristie Kim
While I figured out the twist early on, watching the transition from apathy to hope to purpose was enjoyable.
Long Jump written by Oleg Kazantsev illustrated by Adam Brewster
Not every story is going to work for me and this one didn’t. It starts past the beginning then does a “four days earlier,” which I hate, and right about the time it started to get interesting, it ended. Clearly, others don’t feel the same.
These Walls of Despair written by Anaea Lay illustrated by Bernardo Mota
This is a weird disjointed story that is nevertheless compelling as it explores emotion and impact.
Robots Don’t Cry written by Mike Resnick illustrated by Andrew Sonea
A lovely story of a man learning what it is to love.
The Shaadi Exile written by Amanda Forrest illustrated by Vincent-Michael Coviello
This is an interesting concept. I found the twist a little too obvious, but liked the setup of the various cultures.
The Pushbike Legion written by Timothy Jordan illustrated by Cassandre Bolan
This is an odd tale and very slow in the telling, but underneath all that is a solid examination of people, progress, and consequences, so it’s worth sticking with the story.
Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask written by Randy Henderson illustrated by Vanessa Golitz
This story has everything I look for: a society at fault at the moment of change, and complacency not being all it seems. I enjoyed learning bit by bit about the people, and the solution felt solid.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.