Book Title: Beyond the Stars – Unimagined Realms: a space opera anthology
Editor: Ellen Campbell
Publication Date: August 22, 2018
Available on: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
In this newest book in the “Beyond The Stars” anthology series, we travel to unimagined realms and find stories that are unique and insightful, boldly embracing innovative storytelling ideas. Anyone who enjoys science fiction will find stories to enjoy here. All twelve of the stories here engaged me with their wide variety of tales.
There are suspenseful stories like a race against time to fix a damaged ship before the enemy kills them and a mission that goes awry to save a planet from exploding, using special soldiers with mental powers. There are stories with some cool twists to them too, like a drone sent into the atmosphere of Ganymede with a surprising mission or a story of a Moon colony trying to negotiate independence from Earth. There’s even an asteroid miner who reaches the best quotas ever with some unusual help and a localized apocalypse and an attempt by a commoner to save their queen from disaster.
All of these stories swept me up in their tales, with their strong storytelling skills and creative vision, propelling me from one story to the next to see what delights I would discover. But these three really stood out for me when I read them:
G.S. Jennsen’s “Fractals” – Alexis leads a starship on a science-based mission when they discover a strange signal emanating from space. As they approach it, they discover that the signal is connected to something they never expected. What will they find, and will they survive contact with it?
The character interplay between the captain and Caleb, a consultant assigned to this mission, is more important than it might initially seem and their interaction on how to solve the problem is crucial. Also, the problem they face is very unexpected and how they solve it, even more so. This all leads to the conclusion, which was surprising and mind-blowing.
J.E. Mac’s “Jumps in Consciousness” – A soldier is brought out of deep cryo-sleep to do battle with the inhabitants of planets who get in the way of their colonization efforts. With hundreds of dropships sending soldiers in exo-suits to the surface utilizing orbital insertion methods, our protagonist struggles with his objectives while also doing battle. How will his decisions impact his ability to carry out the mission?
This is a very well–written tale that is so immersive, I got the complete you-are-there sensory experience as I read it, complete with the ethical implications of dominating a planet in the name of colonization through superior firepower. There is a decision our protagonist makes which brings the dilemma home, differentiating between the autopilot actions that an exo-suit provides and the decisions controlled by its human wearer that I’ve never seen done as well as what I read here. The effects of the time jumps that the solider makes in-between battles while in cryo-sleep also adds a forlorn sense of sadness. The intensity of battle unexpectedly amped up to eleven injects deep humanity and pathos where you would least expect it.
Marion Deeds’ “Adagio for Tiamat Station” – In the year 2123, Dimos is an envoy for the Martian Republic on a mining station where citizens are dissenting for their lack of representation in their government. As he ponders the dilemma he faces, something astonishing happens that helps him make up his mind from a very unexpected source. What will he decide and how will it impact the station and its citizens?
There are two parallel storylines here: the current situation on the station and the history of a critical piece of music, its discovery and the battle to share it with the world. At first, you might wonder how the two threads work in tandem. But the author beautifully illustrates this struggle dating from 1797 through 2027 through multiple points of view, all of them steeped in diverse Earth cultures and different characters from each time period. The tragic emotions at play in all the time periods powerfully convey the emotions in these struggles, as well as the exquisite complementarity for both stories. It’s a unique piece of short fiction that I enjoyed immensely.
Also, I always appreciate humorous stories and each one of those here earned laughs from giggles to straight out laughing at some of the hijinks each of the characters get into. Anthologies like this typically only have one or two of those types of stories but here, there were three, though there are more that not only feature something funny but have thrills as well.
From intergalactic dating between two people, while hiding from paparazzi to an apprentice pirate failing miserably to a cargo of cats being hauled where not is all that it seems, there are not only surprises but hilarious situations that made me smile in appreciation what they said and how they said it. Sparkling wit and zany scenarios make for fun stories. All of the stories here in this book boldly share one thing in common – tell splendid stories well. This anthology and this anthology series accomplish this task with zeal, cleverness and impressive talent.
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