Science fiction and fantasy fans who enjoy their stories laden with secrecy and intrigue (underground societies, double agents, covert organizations, etc.) will undoubtedly enjoy the new DAW anthology Under Cover of Darkness, which features 14 original short stories from illustrious genre veterans like Larry Niven, Tanya Huff, and Janny Wurts, as well as numerous talented newcomers like Amanda Bloss Maloney and Stephen Kotowych.
"The Sundering Star" by Wurts is perhaps the collection's most outstanding work. Susan Amanda MacTavich is a respected WorldFleet officer who, unbeknownst to everyone around her, is an undercover operative for a shadowy benevolent order. The secret sisterhood's objective directly conflicts with a WorldFleet mission involving the remote planet of Scathac, a "mottled mudball" of a world rich with precious minerals essential in the building of WorldFleet starships. Standing in the way of "progress" is a group of tribesfolk with powerful paranormal abilities. Will MacTavich be responsible for an act of high treason or heroism -- or both? Other noteworthy selections include Doranna Durgin's "The Scoria," about a group of outcasts afflicted with "otherness" -- abandoned at the outskirts of the city as infants to die -- who have miraculously survived and come together to create their own society. Another standout is Niven's "The Gatherer's Guild," which takes a decidedly radical look at the future of the IRS.
Packed with a highly diverse assortment of bite-sized literary confections, this new DAW anthology should appeal to anyone who appreciates intelligent, lucid conspiracy theory stories à la Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Paul Goat Allen