Thursday, June 3, 2021

"We Dare: Semper Paratus "Edited by Jamie Ibson & Chris Kennedy

All of these stories take place after The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI; I think I got that acronym right). No particular cause was stipulated for the writers, so we get a blend: some are from futures already established, such as Chris Woods’ “This Fallen World” universe; while others are brand new disasters. However, fear not; these cloudy worlds all come with some semblance of a silver lining.

THE DAUGHTER, by Chris Kennedy. Set in “This Fallen World.” One of the distinguishing marks of TFW is that the technology existed, prior to the fall, to imprint an entire personality onto/into a subject. While the imprinted subject may need to develop some muscles, all of the reflexes and knowledge that were in the imprint are transferred over. However, only one personality can be dominant at a time. That means that as long as the imprint is in control, the original is (more or less) dormant. The plot, characterization, action of this story are well-developed. However, we are given something else to think about, and we might be thinking about it for a long time: what are the ethics of keeping a subordinate from suffering?

RESPAWN, by Robert E. Hampson. Any right-thinking resident of the South knows that Waffle Houses are rightly the center of culture and goodness, and may very well be the center of the universe. Well, portals, at least; or, they are in this story, even if given an alternative title. When an active playing character gets killed, they are returned to existence in these blessed locations, where there is always a refill for your coffee. Everything else in the universe might vary, though. So be careful.

BOB, FROM LOS ANGELES, by Brent Roeder. Soren Kierkegaard wrote “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” If that is true, then Bob, from Los Angeles, has the purest heart imaginable. Don’t expect him to engage in much idle chatter, but if a job needs to be done? Bob is your man.  

NOR WAR’S QUICK FIRE, by Rob Howell. A person with great wealth arranges to have a small contingent of employees be evacuated to the fledgling colony on Mars, just as war spasms on Earth. It’s amazing how many different perspectives can be held in a group of intelligent people. What’s more amazing is that some perspectives are subject to change.

WHY 2K, by Jon R. Osborne. Now, THIS is the apocalypse we were promised! What if the prep to eliminate the fallout from using only two digits to record the year hadn’t worked, and all the doom and gloom about Y2K had been realized? That’s what THIS story is about; it’s about time!

THE FALLOW FIELDS, PART I, by Jason Cordova, and THE FALLOW FIELDS, PART II, by Christopher L Smith. Confession: I was so caught up in the story, that I kept reading, and didn’t realize until NOW that parts I & II were written by different authors. I suppose an accomplished reviewer would notice the stylistic changes, and have something clever to say about that, but THIS reviewer was simply engrossed in the adventure. 
I don’t know how much chaos reigned in the land that became the Soviet Union during consolidation after the Bolshevik revolution, but I do know that the US military was involved in two separate campaigns, North Russia and Siberia, in the post WWI period. To that chaos, add a zombie apocalypse, and then follow the crew of a tank as they fight their way through the worst that can come at them.

THE RESERVOIR, by Kevin Fritz Fotovich. First Contact didn’t go so well, and big rocks got dropped on our heads. It didn’t take much to disrupt nearly everything. Still, a determined people can rebuild, particularly when the former enemies can lend help. Other people are determined as well, though.

WARLORD, by Christopher Woods. Books have been written about the exploits of Matthew Kade, deservedly so. The imprinting of personalities went somewhat wrong with him, in the same sense that the Atlantic Ocean is somewhat damp. Somehow, he has managed to find a way that all of his many personalities can get along. He really hates people who keep slaves. And he is always on the lookout for new talent.

TEN BREATHS, by Marisa Wolf. Don’t think that magic will prevent the world from ending. It will just end in a different way, with different options. Still, resolute people can fight back. In this universe, the darkness is on the way, and the people must prepare to fight, and to endure.

MOMENTS, by Kevin Ikenberry. It’s bad enough that the world ends. However, when the world ends just after the worst night of your life, you don’t get an opportunity to make up for a momentary failure. And that turns what SHOULD be a moment, into an eternity.  Maybe another moment will come; but don’t bet on it. Just try to keep doing the next right thing.

YOU HAVE TO GO OUT, by Philip Wohlrab. Here’s the deal: in the Army, you can catch your breath during peacetime. Yes, there is still training, and it is demanding, and people can die in accidents, but at least, in peacetime, nobody is actually shooting at you. So, there’s that. HOWEVER, in the Cast Guard, the enemy is the sea, and the sea NEVER is willing to sign a peace treaty. And it doesn’t make any difference to the Coast Guard if people are shooting at you or not; they still have to do their job, and that means going out.

EIGHT OUNCES A DAY, by Kevin Steverson. In the aftermath of an engineered extinction event, protein is hard to come by; the terrorists did their sums wrong, and killed the animals as well as the people. Still, some survive, including a janitor at Kennesaw State University. Too bad their mascot is an owl; a turkey would have been more convenient.

WRAITH, by Marie Whittaker. Fairly soon after the wraiths appear and start eating people, June Bug discovers that salt will kill them dead. It’s not until much later that things get really weird.

DUST TO DUST, by Jamie Ibson. The most intriguing aspect (among the many delights) of this story is that the reason for the apocalypse is not revealed, until it shows up as a part of the Final Answer. Until then, we start with a near-standard tale of the Old West, with a pleasing young lady from Back East arriving to take ownership of the family estate.  However, she is no tinhorn, not a shrinking violet who must rely on the protection of strong-but-silent, etc. From Western, we shift to a mystery, complete with strangers acting strange, and clues to be found. It’s really a great story, and one that could easily fill the pages of a novel.

The collection is packed solid with great stories, and it’s worth multiple re-reads.

Peace be on your household.