Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age combines the best stories from the six-year run of Ray Gun Revival magazine with new stories from some of the top writers in science fiction today - 24 contemporary stories capturing the classic golden age feel of space opera in the past.
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Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Space Opera is one of great original sci-fi subgenres. Authors in this genre try to focus a little less on precise scientific accuracy and instead aim for excessive amounts of fun. It is perhaps the only subgenre of sci-fi that anyone can enjoy. Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age states this is “a collection of new tales in the Golden Age style.” I was eager for just such a collection and was granted a review copy by the editor, Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Schmidt has collected 25 tales from 24 different authors, and he has ensured there is something for every Space Opera fan here. I found the majority of the tales to be fun one time reads. There are a handful I will reread and one or two I am giving serious consideration to giving a Hugo nomination. There is so much here that I cannot cover everything. Instead, let me highlight the best (and worst) this Anthology has to offer. The Anthology starts off with “Frontier ABCs: The Life And Times Of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher” by Seanan McGuire. This was a wise decision as McGuire wrote one of the best tales in the volume. McGuire captured an atmosphere similar to Firefly in her story, and took us on a ride as a very dangerous woman tries to balance her past with the life she’d rather have. Kristine Kathryn Rusch kept the strong start going with Rick the Robber Barron, a story about a female space pilot who had a bad experience with the titular captain. This story confirmed my belief that Rusch is physically incapable of writing anything that isn’t at least very good. This isn’t her best, but even her average is wonderful. The next two, “To The Shores Of Triple, Lee!” by A.M. Stickel and “The Silver Dollar Saucer” by Lou Antonelli started slow but ended great. Then we had a great story by Sarah A. Hoyt called, “Around The Bend”. Here we see a woman come across a dangerous stranger and has an adventure with him. Hoyt wrote a tense story with great atmosphere. This was easily one of the top three tales in the collection. In my opinion, the weakest story in the collection followed. “Sword Of Saladin” by Michael S. Roberts went a little too over the top with the ‘strong warrior woman’ theme and, in my opinion, it negatively affected the story. The captain felt so absurd that Roberts had me rooting for the ‘bad guy’ in the story. Given my strong reaction to the tale, I’m probably not the intended audience Roberts was shooting for. “Malfunction” by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks was just fantastic. Great concept, great execution—I loved it beginning to end. If it wasn’t a reprint I would give it a Hugo nomination. It really is that good. We are treated to two stories by the prolific Mike Resnick: “Catastrophe Baker And The Ship Who Purred” and “Catastrophe Baker In The Hall Of The Neptunian Kings”. Both are great, Golden Age styled fun with Catastrophe Baker, a macho man going on outlandish adventures. Bravo sir. Two other longtime authors, A.C. Crispin (“Twilight World”) and David Farland (“Saint Orick”) give us stories set in universes they created in other books. Both are of the highest quality, which is exactly what readers expect from these two authors. “Can Giraffes Change Their Spots?” by Jenny Schwartz and “Captain Quasar And The Insurmountable Barrier Of Space Junk” by Milo James Fowler are back to back humorous stories slotted near the end of the book. Both were definitely funny and helped break up the serious narrative flow. The rest of the stories were of good quality but may have suffered from a little drag. A Cardinal Sin in Space Opera is to be boring, and a couple of these unnamed stories do skirt dangerously close to that territory. However, all the writers of these somewhat dragging tales do redeem themselves with strong endings. It is also worth mentioning that there is quite a bit of the ‘strong woman’ trope within this volume. I felt that a few of these were forced characterizations, as if the author said, “Well, I have to include a strong woman here somewhere…” but the majority of the time the characters fit and the story works. Whenever I read a short story collection I find there are a couple stories which featured editing issues. Maybe a tale doesn’t go anywhere, another stops abruptly, or I find a small number of grammar or spelling mistakes. None of that is present here. Schmidt has done an impressive job of not only acquiring 25 good stories, but ensuring his anthology is free of irritating editing problems. On top of that, Schmidt did a great job structuring the overall flow of the Anthology so that the reader doesn’t get bogged down in a specific type of story too many times in a row. This is an underappreciated skill and is to be commended. Overall I was very pleased with the volume. Schmidt has done a magnificent job picking stories that capture the sense of adventure and downright fun readers want in Space Opera. Even though some stories are stronger than others, everything is well written and I found the vast majority quite enjoyable. There is no reason why any reader with interest in science fiction should pass on this volume.
My wife and I first started with "Sword Of Saladin" by Michael S. Roberts because the name sounded intriguing to us. We weren't exactly sure how the phrase "Space Opera For A New Age" would manifest itself but if haughty Pirates of the Space Seas was a mime this sure fits the bill. It's rather hard to write a comment without giving away any of the plots so in general terms, it involves humorously jargon-infested battle orders barked across a colorful cast of space-faring crewmen commanded by a sexy, proud Captain completely able to back her commands up with sheer guile and physical prowess. We were both smitten enough with the storyline that we read segments of the story to each other. We've started in on the other stories now and, so far, we're quite pleased. An absolute must for anyone's bedtime collection! Allen Nance, Teri Dooley. Las Vegas, NV, USA