Book Title: Chronicle Worlds: No Way Home – Future Chronicles, Book 18
Authors: Lucas Bale, S. Elliot Brandis, J. S. Collyer, S. W. Fairbrother, Michael Patrick Hicks, Harry Manners, Nadine Matheson, Alex Roddie & Samuel Peralta
Series Editor: Samuel Peralta
Guest Editors: Alex Roddie & Lucas Bale
Publication Date: January 6, 2019
Available On: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
We all know the comforts of home: it’s where our loved ones are, it’s where we feel the most comfortable and it’s a place where we’re able to unwind after the rigors of the day. Just the idea of it brings out good feelings in us. But what if that was taken away from us, or we were faced with an impossible decision and had to choose to let that go?
That wrenching idea is at the heart of this innovative anthology and it’s explored in-depth, bringing out the sorrow that lies within us at the idea that home is something we will never experience again.
From human consciousness embedded in a battle mech who is cut off from his battle group to laboring deep underground in a mine on a distant planet to a trip by advanced humans visiting a devastated and more primitive Earth as tourists (!), this anthology is filled with nine dark and fantastic tales.
It also features a beautiful and insightful foreword from author Jennifer Foehner Wells about real-life volunteers going to colonize Mars in 2024 and knowing it’s a one-way trip. While each one of the stories in this anthology was robust and well-written, these stories stood out for me the most:
Michael Patrick Hicks’ “Revolver” – Cara is an alcoholic, out of money and depressed at the sorry state of her life. Desperate for her emotional pain to stop, she decides to end her life to help her family get money by going on the titular reality show. What follows is an unending humiliation and degradation of her character and the rallying cry for her death by a self-inflicted gunshot from the show’s fandom. Will she pull the trigger?
This author brings out all the terror and fear of a precarious situation that deteriorates and gets more intense with each brutal moment and I felt every single one of those seconds with increasing distress. The depth of hatred, misogyny, bigotry, and darkness that lies in the hearts of men is brought out in a terrifying manner, all directed at Cara. And each turn of the screw led to an ending that was both explosive and exciting. After all that, I felt like I had to take a shower to wash off all the anger I felt from this story, as it was that visceral.
Harry Manners’ “The Happy Place” – Michael and his two young children reside on Mars, part of an experiment to colonize it. Depressed due to a tragedy in his past, he goes to therapy to try to manage it. But Commander Reynolds, in charge of the colony, becomes increasingly unhinged, putting the entire colony at risk! Can Michael fix the situation before it’s too late?
This is a deeply psychological tale of one man coming to terms of his loss, but not in a way I ever expected. But it is also a tale of a leader who cannot cope with the gravity of his situation on Mars and how it is enabled from an unexpected source. While the tension increases, each character responds to it in different ways. I acutely felt the despair Michael experienced and was surprised how the story unexpectedly played out with each revelation made.
Nadine Matheson’s “Renata” – In 2049, a small government cabal of clairvoyants and assassins discover that a terrorist, Renata, once thought long dead, will reemerge and destroy the cabal! The solution: use an untested time travel project to go back to 2014 and kill her. But time travel is a tricky business – can Kaoru, their best assassin, handle this assignment?
This is a deliciously twisty and mind-bending trip, as only the best time travel stories can be. But the characters of Kaoru and Renata are given life through detailed histories deftly woven into the plot and I was invested in both of their fates. The detailed character work and emotional complications of time travel along with the surprises of the plot that made this an unforgettable and highly worthwhile trip.
Samuel Peralta’s “If You Are Reading This Post”- Madison leaves a note, explaining why she left home and committed herself to actions that horrify her mother once she reads them. Talking about why she did what she did, it becomes increasingly clear how tortured her life has become and how she seeks to relieve herself of the emotional burdens that come with her situation. Why did Madison do what she did?
This is a short but impactful story that examines the beauty of life, the relief that comes with death and unhealthy ways of coping with grief. The emotions this story brought out made me misty with how much it resonated in my heart. To me, this story is the ultimate embodiment of the anthology’s theme with a nifty twist to it that made me examine its subject in a new and different way.
Other notable stories include “XE, or People Are Crazy” by S. Elliot Brandis. It’s about an average everyman sent to a distant planet for scouting purposes and discovers numerous surprises and the machinations that brought him there. It’s a story that made me go “what the hell?!?!” as I read each bonkers revelation. And Alex Roddie’s “Cold Witness” story is about an abandoned military outpost harboring a dark secret. Its atmospheric mood sets the stage for a mind-altering trip that made me gasp in disbelief as I realized what was really going on.
The theme is driven home in a variety of ways, all of which utilize it in unpredictable and unique ways. And each story demonstrates the personal adversity that is inherent in the tale they have to tell. This entire anthology resonated with me at a primal level. Each author distinguishes themselves in how they accomplish this and each one was fresh and different from one another. These stories are so deep, if you don’t have an emotional reaction, you simply don’t have a pulse. Prepare yourself to find out why there’s no way home.
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