Wednesday 3 August 2016

#bookreview: Writers of the future

Writers of the Future Volume 31Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've known about Writers of the Future for a long time - I spent a lot of my younger years thinking of things to submit, but never got round to writing anything I thought worthy of submitting. It was, however, an anthology I have never gotten round to actually reading until now, mainly because I don't think I ever saw it in bookshops.

I picked up Volume 31 from NetGalley, expecting to be wowed. I mean, after all, so many awesome writers got their start from Writers of the Future, right? (Even if I didn't really like Hubbard's Battlefield Earth.)

This is where I admit that I'm perplexed. I've just skimmed through all the stories in the anthology to refresh my memory, and other than Purposes Made for Alien Minds (which I thought was crap and difficult to read) and maybe The God Whisperer (which I thought was short and a little trite) I had overwhelmingly good thoughts about them. As in, I thought most of them were great. They were complex. New. Exciting. Interesting.

And yet... when I think back on the anthology as a whole, all I felt was meh, okay. Which doesn't make sense because if the individual parts were great, the whole should be greater? I should be more excited about what I just read than I am right now?

I don't know. All I have to say was that while most of the stories were individually gripping, there was no momentum or impetus for the anthology as a whole.

I hope that makes sense.

[updated to include review of #32!]

Writers of the Future Vol 32Writers of the Future Vol 32 by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trying to read a book within two to three days isn’t a big deal for me. I was just defeated by fatigue and horrible formatting which made me want to tear my eyes out (though it is a digital ARC, so I can’t complain). The stories contained within Writers of the Future #32 are the best 3 of each quarter’s submissions for 2015, including 1 notable entry. I’ll try to summarise here my thoughts on each one.

The Star Tree (Jon Lasser) - Chiq collects star system cards, what he believes to be deeds to destroyed stars and planets now rebuilt by The Unexpected Delight Company. When he finds a whole deck missing on their journey to their new home, he insists on going back to find them. The Star Tree explores the relationship between two brothers and their father in the wake of their father’s separation - is it divorce? - often wobbling back and forth between understanding and sibling rivalry. Chiq’s revelation throws them all off-course. (3 stars)

Images Across a Shattered Sea (Stewart C Baker) - Driss and Fatima are chasing message-globes on the cliffs above the Shattered Sea, excited for the chance to discover what new meaningless (or maybe meaningful) messages they’ll be able to gleam from the long-dead past. But hidden amidst the harmless globes are some not-so innocuous ones: shards that allow people from the past to see the state of society in the future. I found this a little confusing, probably because I read this in between falling asleep. So I don’t know if it was confusing because I was sleepy or I was sleepy because I was confused. (2-ish stars)

Mobius (Christoph Weber) - Detective Elizabeth Arus chases down illegal gene-tweakers - but the latest criminal is the one she least suspects… Mobius (and I don’t know how to do those dots above the o) is a compelling medical thriller with very high stakes. (4 stars)

The Last Admiral (L. Ron Hubbard) - this is a reprint of Hubbard’s old story, but it’s a good one. Admiral Barnell is about to witness the death of his beloved US Navy when the Johnsonville colony on Twain is utterly destroyed. Barnell is galvanised into action, sending the Navy into space to do what it’s good at: navigating and running down pirates. (4 stars)

The Jack of Souls (Stephen Merlino) - Harric, the gentleman bastard, is cursed to die tonight. In a last bid attempt to gain the attention of a god and maybe live a little longer, Harric sets out on a dangerous gamble to win the life of a slave from the hands of the West Isle Lord Iras. I loved this piece - a delicate blend of Greek mythology, medieval fantasy and tinge of the Wild West. (5 stars)

Swords Like Lightning, Hooves Like Thunder (K.D. Julicher) - Yvina is running for her life, betrayed in the middle of negotiations with the Methlan Khan. But Mahkah, the Methlan warrior who defeats her, seems to be at odds with his own Khan. As they travel over the steppes into the heart of Methlan’s homeland, Yvina must decide if they are on the same side - and if not, what she should do about it to save her people. This is my favourite story of the whole anthology. (5 stars)

Hellfire on the High Frontier (Dave Wolverton) - I suppose this is Wild West Steampunk? It’s… okay. (2 stars)

Squalor and Sympathy (Matt Dovey) - Society is built on the Squalor of the poor, their machines powered by their feelings of misery. But things are changing and Nelly Ludd is leading an uprising to free them. Squalor and Sympathy evokes memories of A Little Princess (and maybe some Dickens) in its traditional British style and themes. (4 stars)

Dinosaur Dreams in Infinite Measure (Rachael K. Jones) - Liza is trying to convince her aged mother to vacate the old farm. Instead, her mother convinces her to stay and help when she reveals that she’s created a dinosaur engine - a large, clunky machine that creates real life dinosaurs out of garbage. It’s quite a silly romp - hasn’t Liza (or her mother) watched Jurassic Park? - but amusing enough. (3 stars)

Cry Havoc (Julie Frost) - Nate’s entire pack has been eliminated and now the hunters are after him. But Iann MacKinnon, the strange old man who just watches, keeps asking him this same question, “What do you want?” I’m not a big fan werewolf stories, so this was just okay. (3 stars)

A Glamour in the Black (Sylvia Anna Hiven) - Keani lives with a parasite - one that changes her appearance and abilities according to the wishes of the people around her. Nahoa, a straight-talking clammer from the caves, strengthens her resolve to get it removed. Glamour is the story of the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other, and the wishes we harbour that may be more dangerous than we know. (4 stars).

The Broad Sky Was Mine, And The Road (Ryan Row) - In a post-apocalyptic world, David and Samantha drive into town hunting stage fours. There’s a lot of death and running and memories. (2 stars)

The Jade Woman of the Luminous Star (Sean Williams) - Hugh Gordon, accused of murdering his wife, tells the ghoulish story of a strange woman from another world who visited him on the fateful night. Its a little to wordily philosophical for me. (3 stars)

Freebot (R. M. Graves) - Danny Clark’s wife has just given birth. But he’s lost his job and his benefits and now an ugly old freebot in the bar is giving him life advice. Freebot is dark, gritty cyberpunk in a desperate future world. (3 stars)

Last Sunset for the World Weary (H. L. Fullerton) - Fida has just watched the Earth end from the observation deck of a star cruiser with her poet/boyfriend, Jawry, and Pickets, their insanely rich patron. I didn’t really get the point of this, especially with its weird ending. (2 stars)

The Suns Fall Apart (J.W. Alden) - All Caleb wants it to go outside and see the sun. But he can’t pass the tests that will allow his freedom. When he makes a desperate escape, he soon finds that the outside world is very different from what he expected. The Suns Fall Apart starts off very innocently - you wonder at this strange prohibition, and this magic that the family seems to have. Then clues filter in and you’re left reading in horror. (3 stars)

Overall - I think I pretty much enjoyed this one. Was probably in a better frame of mind than when I was reading #31.

View all my reviews


  1. Interesting. I would think the individual pieces would be enough to earn a great rating, but I guess if you didn't come away resonating with the whole...

    1. Yeah, it puzzles me.

    2. Thank you for your review, Anna. I'm sorry it didn't leave an overall good feeling for you. But I am glad you enjoyed the individual stories. One comment that may be pertinent, is that there is no overall theme to the stories. They must be either sf or fantasy, need to be pretty much PG rating, and otherwise good stories. So, while you have anthologies that are theme based as the norm, this anthology is held together strictly by the quality of story being told. We try to create a sequence where it "flows" the best. But it quite often ends up being quite eclectic as regards sf&f.
      John Goodwin
      Galaxy Press

    3. Hi John!

      Thanks for your reply. Yes, that is a probable reason. I guess I'm used to reading thematic anthologies so was looking for a build up when there wasn't one. :)