TITLE: ASTROLOGICA: STORIES OF THE ZODIAC
PUBLISHER: THE ALCHEMY PRESS (http://alchemypress.wordpress.com)
GENRE: SHORT FICTION
COVER TYPE: E-BOOK
A free copy of this anthology was provided by Peter Coleborn, the publisher and editor-in-chief. He asked me to review three upcoming collections. Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac is the first. I uploaded the PDF he sent me to my kobo.
BLURB FROM THE COVER
What’s your star sign? Is our fate pre-determined by the constellations and the position of the planets? Can astrology really present an alternative vision to the apparent certainties of science, politics, religion and celebrity culture? Or should its claims of determinism, fate, fortune and personality profiling perhaps be taken with a large pinch of salt?
Here are fourteen brand new astrologically themed stories to delight and enthral, spanning the range of science fiction, fantasy and horror, with stories by Doug Blakeslee, Mark David Campbell, Storm Constantine, Adam Craig, Megan Kerr, Joel Lane, Bob Lock, Jet McDonald, David McGroarty, Ralph Robert Moore, Christine Morgan, David Turnbull, Neil Williamson and Stuart Young.
What is the secret of the white bull and his labyrinthine ranch? Why should you never trust gifts you win at a funfair? And why are twins always apparently at war with each other?
On his approach to the checkpoint at the border Rik noted with some satisfaction that the baby in the back seat crib was fast asleep. Although he had heard that this happened sometimes Rik had never been lucky enough to transport a child that slept all the way through. Mostly he ended up with payloads that bawled their little heads off from beginning to end – puking and stinking up the interior of the car into the bargain (ASPECTS OF ARIES BY DAVID TURNBULL).
I was intrigued by the concept of a collection of thematically linked stories about the twelve star signs. I wondered how the writers would approach this ‘theme’. My curiously is part of the reason I agree to review Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac in the first place. I expected something pretty original.
I found Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac was a strong collection of stories overall. There were some great stories, little gems of writing among the tales. My favourites include Aspects of Aries by David Turnbull, The White Bull Ranch by Christine Morgan, The Order of the Scales by Storm Constantine and The Fisherman by Mark David Campbell. These were all well-written, original, engaging and a pleasure to read.
Dark Matters by Megan Kerr is the stand-out story in this collection. I loved this story. I loved Kerr’s style of writing. I loved the original plot. I loved every word. Dark Matter ticks all the boxes as far as I am concerned. In a way it’s a good job this story comes towards the end. If Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac had opened with this piece the other stories would have had some tall shoes to fit. I didn’t expect a story this good so close to the end of the collection.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a collection of stories that doesn’t have a few stinkers. Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac is no exception. There were a few stories that didn’t work as well as they could have. The Sun and the Moon by Rob Lock is dialogue heavy in the first few pages and Lock over-explains a lot of what’s going on. The story picks up after a few pages and is pretty good. However, the clunky opening gains this a big thumbs down. I really didn’t get on with Star Crossed by Stuart Young. The main character whines and bitches for pages about how his twin brother, born a few minutes before him is better at everything, took his life and how hard done by he is because of it. This really grated on my nerves. After several pages of moaning I wanted to scream your life hasn’t worked out because you are an asshole. Don’t blame your brother. This meant I felt triumphant at the end when the brother is hailed a hero for something the main character does. I also think Young does not make it clear the story is set on a spaceship so when the engines fail I was left scratching my head and thinking WTF?
There were a few stories in Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac that weren’t good or bad but fell somewhere in the middle. These include Ragged Claws by Joel Lane and Cookie by Jet McDonald. I don’t have anything particularly negative to say about the stories but don’t have any praise to heap on them either. They were just okay.
The stories in Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac are quite varied and cover different genres. We have science-fiction type stories like Aspects of Aries by David Turnbull. We have fantasy type stories like Dark Matter by Megan Kerr. We have crime stories like The Sun and the Moon by Bob Lock. I like the fact I wasn’t sure where each story was going to take me.
I don’t think the theme linking the stories in Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac worked as well as it could have. In some stories such as Dark Matter by Megan Kerr and The White Bull Ranch by Christine Morgan this linking theme worked really well. In some stories like The Yellow Fruit by Ralph Robert Moore and Cookie by Jet McDonald the theme came across as farcical and gimmicky.
Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac is a good collection of stories overall. There are only a couple of stories I felt very poor. I enjoyed most of the stories on offer. I even encountered a couple of writer’s I want to seek out such as Megan Kerr. I want to see if she’s written anything else half as good as Dark Matter.
Up Next: The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic. This is an e-book is the second book I will review for Peter Coleborn.