“Writers in Lockdown”
Edited by Faith Jones, 2020
(Confession: I'm one of the authors listed herein. My review is about the other stories in the book.)
“Lockdown” has something for everyone, ranging from sword & sorcery to science-fiction, from horror to humor, and from fantasy to modern suspense. Although the anthology has no particular theme beyond the time period in which it was written, the events of our time made its way into six of the stories.
The Trout Ticklers: Well, a 74-word, run-on sentence is perhaps not the best way to begin any story, let alone a book. That's a shame, because there's a real charm to the opening story in this collection and its characters. I especially love the way the little girl Fen speaks, jumping from one sentence to another without being broken up into paragraphs, just as a child her age would speak.
Adoption: The next story is an intriguing chapter of a space adventure. The lady space-pirate is fun. Alas, it's only a chapter of a longer work and we are left wanting more—not necessarily a bad thing. *****
The Hospitaller: Skipping to the fourth story, we have a modern miracle here. Concise and good-hearted, we see a man whose fate is altered by a bum. ****
Mad Language Broadcasting: An amusing tale of a couple of slackers who invent their own language and pass it off as real. These scoundrels and their love interest are fun—though I can't help but be reminded of Beavis, Butthead, and Daria. *****
RN40: A road trip in the Patagonian highlands goes bad when three fratboys have a run-in with a nocturnal inhabitant. Bonus points for leaving the mystery intact. *****
Oberbootsman Becker: The horrors of war come vividly to life in this tale of a Unterseeboot during the Great War, over one hundred years ago. *****
Lockdown Hero: Here's a story about the actual quarantine of 2020, comparing our trials to an earlier tribulation. Told from a child's POV, it's scary, hopeful, and even charming. *****
The 7th Dimension: A couple takes a walk through a dreamland. For real, I think this story is based on a dream the author had. ****
Form: This one's well written, imaginative, but needs work on the segues, as it's tricky to tell where one scene ends and the next begins. I realize this is intentional, but it's also confusing. The ending is more of a cliffhanger for... something. **
Gaia: We're all at the whims of the gods. ***
Isolation: Wow, this is a dynamic tale of an old man faced with the sort of isolation we're all facing now only worse. And yes, it CAN get worse. Unfortunately, the story just stops before anything is resolved or explained. ****
How the Raven Met the Angel: Two vignettes from the life of a spiritually-empowered superhero. While part of a larger opus, there's plenty of action and insight. ****
Something the Matter With Alpha Centauri: Man's greatest achievement, given to a young woman. When humankind first reaches to stars, how will we explore? What will our goals be? And how will we cope? This story shows an interesting possibility. *****
The Arrival: Another tale of plague and disease, this time set in an unnamed period. Here we do not have charts and statistics, only the all-too real experiences of three people. *****
Scars: In a medieval realm, with curses and evil plots, the somewhat thick hero, Erdinan must learn the dark secret his new bride holds. Points just for this line: “He held his hands in front of him and his fingers danced together like spider legs.” Plus the ending is nicely asymmetrical for most Sword & Sorcery tales. *****
Light: Short and none-to-sweet, this tale of the lockdown in a madhouse leaves us wondering just who's the craziest. ****
Digital Nomad: Freewheeling and lackadaisical, our hero travels the world like a hobo of the World Wide Web. But things get real when there's a case of mistaken identity. Fun and philosophical at the same time. ****
The Aviary: A very different tale of abuse and healing, nicely done. *****
The Morpheus Tower: An unusual rift on the Potterverse, with promising student faced with a devil's bargain and the vengeful Undead. It begs for a sequel, but what we're given is nicely done. *****
Who Shall Profit: The coronavirus is a bargaining chip in a duel of two opportunists. This is so clever, I wish I'd thought of it. But the story sets up an outcome that's never resolved. ****
Genealogy Club: A quirky and inventive piece about fame, arrogance, deceit, cold-hearted science, even colder business practices, and maybe maternal instincts. Told in a unique style, it's well worth a look. *****
A Glorious Piece of Chocolate Cake: A quickie about out-of-body warfare, intended for a YA audience. It works, but we never feel the heroine is any real danger. ***
Time Out: A very different way of keeping one's self occupied during the lockdown, with several unanswered questions at the end, but maybe we don't need these answers. ****
Help Us: Shipwrecked visitors from an alien world must look to a Ufologist to help them. I was expecting more 'zing' in the ending, but it's still amusing and clever. *****
Lunar Illusion: Huh. OK. This is written well enough, and it looks like it's going somewhere, yet it manages to avoid that. ***
The Final Chapter: Curiously similar to the story “Isolation”, this is the tale of a old man in a storm. But this man has something he must do before he leaves this world. ****
A very few of the stories didn't work that well for me, but everyone is different and you might consider them gems. It's well worth a look.
4.5 stars, rounded up for having heart.