Friday, June 16, 2023

Falcons of Malta: Anthology #4


This is the fourth anthology of Malta stories published by Raconteur Press. Believe it or not, this is NOT the most bizarre thing this new publisher has brought forth; they also have a series of art-inspired anthologies, with each story having a max size of 50 words. I doubt that anyone could really predict what they do next, but my money is on a Do It Yourself series covering items such as: how to differentiate between a GHOST in your attic, and GOATS in your attic, and recommendations for each.

As a matter of fact, anything related to an attic could show up. I believe that’s where you’ll find the Usual Suspects, unless they are attending a convention.

I was a Falcon for 16 years, and thus, even if they hadn’t already hooked me with the three prior works,  it was a foregone conclusion that this volume was going to join my review queue. I do not regret this in the slightest. HOWEVER: in order that I receive maximum adulation, I will state once more that anthologies of short stories are one of my favorite forms to read, but are the most difficult to review.  That’s because so many short stories turn on a reveal, which must NOT show up in the review, as spoilers are a horrid thing. Therefore, I have to do actual brain work, and who has time for THAT anymore? 

A condensed version of this review, beginning with the next paragraph, has been submitted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Welcome to some new stories, about entities of various age, set on an ancient island.

Cat and Mouse, by Cedar Sanderson. The Stasi had the job of keeping Westerners and Western influences OUT, while keeping their own population IN. If that sentence makes no sense to you, I’m guessing you came of age before the Wall came down (and you won’t understand THAT phrase, either). I don’t know that DDR mothers ever warned their children not to be bad, or the Stasi would get them, but they were boogie man, banshee, and Baba Yaga, all rolled into one, and the threat would not have been idle. Young love doesn’t have much chance against an enemy like that; it would take a magic cat to help (plus something else I can’t mention because SPOY-LERZ).

Where the Heroes Go, by Nicki Kenyon. Some myths describe the reward for fallen heroes as a great hall, where the mighty sit and drink beer forever. Personally, an eternity in the company of loudmouth drunks doesn’t sound like a reward. And how does an eternity of alcohol consumption work, anyway? If getting drunker and drunker is the pattern, then again, no thanks. I like Nicki’s proposal MUCH better.

Family Matters, by Evan DeShais. I’d have to classify this as a crime thriller, but that’s not right, either. It’s got a high-tech thread running through it, but the tech doesn’t always work. Loyalty does, though, as long as you add the right amount of hard work.  

Knight Errant, by E.C. Ratliff. Members of the warrior class chase a miscreant though alleys and look forward to hitting him with sticks. It doesn’t work. It never works, because success takes a LOT more than muscle. It takes determination, commitment to a cause, and a magic rat.

The Old Man of Malta, by Heather Strickler. Don’t EVER threaten an old man, because they aren’t motivated by a fear of death. Actually, what they ARE motivated by is anything that ends the problem, so they don’t have to be bothered anymore. And if that leaves the opponent mostly (or all) dead? Who cares? 

The Peace of Il-Maqluba, by A. Kristina Casasent. There are extensive tunnels and caves underground in Malta; some of them are more than just rock and dirt. Everything has a purpose, which sometimes can only be revealed by doing.

The Grandmaster's Treasure, by Seth Taylor. When the Turks drove the Society off the island, the Grandmaster’s treasure stayed behind. It wasn’t abandoned, though; it was hidden, until the right people came back for it. Remember: no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. 

Spring Festival, by Claire Bernay. How do you know when it’s time to pass along the adult secrets to the children? How do you protect them from the inevitable? How can you make sure you aren’t crippling them with the decisions you make? 

The Tides of Malta, by Zane Voss. It’s a straightforward commando raid, but the stakes are incredibly high. You can prepare all you want, but it’s the on-the-spot decisions that make the difference between success and failure. 

Special Delivery, by D.A. Brock. In this timeline, the Texas navy is fighting in the vicinity of the island. The submarine minelayer Devastation isn’t really equipped to do the new job, but it’s “other duties as assigned.” What’s more explosive: a boatload of avgas, or a boatload of nurses?

Backchannel, by Richard Cartwright. In the future, we have bases on the moon. High tech doesn’t mean infallible, though. When the aliens land, mistakes are made, people on both sides die, but EVERYONE gets blamed. Somehow, the future of humanity depends on how well one human gets along with one alien. It doesn’t look like it’s going well.

Alas, my review is finished, and once again, I fear I have not done the EXCELLENT work of these authors justice. If I failed in that respect, it's someone else's fault. Not the authors, though. 
Probably the GHOST or the GOATS. I'll have them cleared out sometime this weekend.

Peace be on your household.

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