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Posted November 1, 2012
Five By Five is a sci-fi anthology by Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, Loren L. Coleman, B.V. Larson, and Michael A. Stackpole. Each author contributes one story and together they form a nice eBook packed with action, adventure, and wonderful stories. For this review I’ll cover each story, but not necessarily in the order they appear in the book. In this case, I’m saving the best for last.
First up is “Shores of the Infinite” by Loren L. Coleman. Coleman is not an author I’m familiar with, and this tale is part of The ICAS Files, a series of short stories set in a universe created by Coleman. In the story, readers are introduced to a battle on a far off planet called Rho VII. It’s a place where cyborgs wage war against humans, harvesting them for spare parts. The narrative of the story follows two characters. One of them is Sgt. Marcos Rajas who leads his unit of ICAS troopers into battle against the cybies. It’s through this character that readers get introduced to the technology of the universe. The other character is Tevin, a member of local street gang, and now a survivor. He’s struggling to help out other survivors as well dealing with his own deteriorating situation. While the story is creative, and I really liked the idea of cyborgs harvesting humans for spare parts, there are a few flaws with the story which made it the weakest of the five. Thankfully the other stories more than made up for it.
Next up is “Out There” by Michael A. Stackpole. For X-Wing fans, this is one story you might want to check out. Mike sets up a galaxy where an alien race named the Qian have reached out to Earth for help in a war against the Zsytzii. A group of starfighter pilots are formed called the Star Tigers. This group of ace pilots get thrown into their first foray of combat and Stackpole slips into prose that’s very reminiscent of the good old X-Wing stories with lots of space combat and dogfights. Instead of X-Wings there are Shrikes, and instead of Wedge there is Captain Greg Allen and Colonel Nick Clark. Woven into the story is a layer of politics and mystery. Captain Allen is the son of the President, but also a person whose recovering from a traumatic injury and possibly not quite himself. Then there is the Qian who harbor intentions that no one is really sure about. While the story lays out some of these ideas and included a full fledged dogfight, it’s very much a setup for a larger story that I hope Stackpole will fully develop. It’s an intriguing story and I’d love to read more.
B.V. Larson’s “The Black Ship” was a surprising jewel in the anthology. Like Coleman, Larson is an author I’m unfamiliar with and I didn’t know what to expect. In his story of pain and triumph, he lays out two separate narratives that later crash together with devastating consequences. On one hand there’s an experimental ship crewed by Mechs. The Mechs are synthetic beings who utilize human brains. The captain of the black ship (as it has no name) is a little unstable and has a habit of terminating his chief engineer for a new one. He utilizes a disconnector device that can shut down any Mech, taking them offline so he can then remove their brain and replace it with a new one. The ship keeps a stockpile of brains on hand in case replacements are needed. The engineer is the primary character in this thread of the story, and it is through their eyes that we experience their fear of being disconnected and struggling to fulfill the wishes of a insane captain
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Posted December 4, 2012