Bridge Across The Stars, A Science Fiction Anthology Presented By Sci-Fi Bridge : Stories Of Exploration, First Contact And Conflict Among The Stars edited by Chris Pourteau & Rhett C. Bruno. Foreword by Kevin J. Anderson (book review)

January 18, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More

Sci-Fi Bridge is an author collective which brings together traditionally published and independent authors, bestsellers and emerging writers (do they hatch from an egg?), to bring the reader good Science Fiction. They have a newsletter and a website.

The collection opens with a fine military space opera in David VanDyke’s ‘As the Sparks Fly Upward’. First Lieutenant Joseph ‘Bull’ Ben Tauros, Earthfleet Marines is woken up by a shrieking alarm on the assault carrier Melita. They’re under attack by the Meme or rather by someone under the control of the Meme, sneaky aliens who enslave other races. Ben is a likeable lead character and the unfolding story examines what it means to be human.

An old woman wakes from a cryo-sleep of two hundred and fifty years at the start of ‘Peace Force’ by Ann Christy. Director Swanson is the last high ranking official left to supervise the abandonment of Earth by humanity as they download themselves into cyberspace for eternal bliss. Interesting personalities are involved and the tale winds along to an unexpected but fair conclusion.

‘Guardians Of Earth’ by Felix R. Savage does not envisage a bright future for humanity. A Void Dragon eats the sun in 2160 but luckily we have the technology – gravity is involved – to move Earth to Jupiter and turn that gas giant into a sun. Then the Offense attacked Earth in a warship called Blood-DrinkingYobbo (that’s how the name translates from their Offensive language) and the war is on-going. Our hero is Jay Scattergood, who found a dragon egg when he was eight and has been keeping it ever since, yea even unto his enlistment into the military. Dragons notwithstanding, this is definitely SF and another good yarn about future fighting forces. The chatty first-person narration makes it an easy and pleasant read.

Lindsay Buroker’s contribution is ‘Here Be Dragons’. McCall Richter is taking her sister McKenzie to ‘a penal moon so inhospitable that it had the nickname Dragons’. The Terraformers had thought it entertaining to seed the world with big lizards. McCall is a design engineer who works on big projects where she has to fit into teams. She doesn’t fit in well. McCall doesn’t fit in with other people neither but with her vocation as a freelance searcher for missing persons, it doesn’t matter. They don’t get along all that well with each other but try in remembrance of dear old Mom. McCall is searching for a colony of scientists meant to be on the world. There are some adventures but the theme of being an oddball was the main weight of the story and one that will resonate with us nerds and geeks. Who the hell wants to be ‘normal’ whatever that is? This was excellent.

‘The Gordian Asteroid’ is a hunk of rock which has an entire fleet of indestructible ships thousands of years old embedded in it, like chocolate flakes in an ice cream. Any attempt to loosen one of the ships causes it to explode. Aged scientist Doctor Vongst is determined to find a way. Author Chris Dietzel has an interesting protagonist and a classy android but, ultimately, I found this disappointing.

Many of these yarns could have sprung from the pages of any 1950s American SF magazine and there’s nothing wrong with that but Josi Russell’s ‘Broken One’ is the most obviously of that ilk. Ryz the Ritellian is fighting a last-ditch battle against the invading Maro. There are some good plot twists but, overall, it seemed like the sort of filler Robert Silverberg used to bash out for the cheap magazines when such things existed. It was okay but didn’t really grab me.

In ‘The Trenches Of Centauri Prime’, Craig Martelle does a SF version of ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’. Earth is at war with the Bazarians but it’s fought on a neutral planet, so that the two homeworlds won’t come to harm. It’s also fought with low-tech weapons. Riskin is in the Interstellar Marines and lacks respect for his officers, as does Ak ‘Tiul, a Bazarian in the opposite trench. Good fun and it gets the message across without preaching.

‘The Erkennen Job’ by Chris Pourteau features Stacks Fischer, first-person narrator and personal assassin for Tony-Two-Point-Oh, head of the top faction in Syn Corp. The Syndicate Corporation owns everything in the Solar system and, rather like the New York Mafia back in the day, has five factions. A rival faction is causing trouble and Stacks must go to the Moon colony Darkside and teach them a lesson. The classic noir features of an honest cop and a whore with a heart of gold were nicely mixed in and touches of humour and clever writing made this better than the summary sounds.

Daniel Arenson has seen the new ‘Battlestar: Galactica’. ‘The Firebug And The Pharaoh’ features a feisty female starfighter pilot who is a member of the Heirs of Earth, a group dedicated to finding humanity’s almost mythical homeworld. Wisecracking and aggressive, she must fight dinosaurs on the jungle world of Saropia to save a small band of humans. The biography says that author Daniel Arenson has sold a million books. It was okay but hardly original.

Director Darien Trass is in charge of the Titan Project and must conduct an ‘Interview For The End Of The World’ in the story of that name by Rhett C. Bruno. More than one actually, as all the candidates for the Titan-bound rocket to escape the asteroid about to hit Earth are screened by him. Realistic scenes of mob terror and a dash of nobility made this moving and effective. Titan is a moon of Saturn, in case you need reminding.

We’re in gangland territory again with ‘Night Shift’ by Steve Beaulieu. Interplanetary cabbie and ex-soldier Maturo takes a seedy character to Blissformen, the pleasure planet. The fare, unexpectedly, doesn’t want to be let down in the gambling den or the cathouse but in the business district, where the bosses live. Female-shaped pleasure androids are not unusual in SF, especially comedies, but this story features an original twist on that. Nothing graphic but uncomfortable reading nevertheless. A brave story to publish and well put across by the author.

My impression that this anthology was front-loaded with the best stuff was scuppered by Lucas Bale’s ‘A Friend To Man’ which may be the finest story in the book. It tackles the issue of computer self-awareness through an AI and a doctor whose teaching it literature on a space station orbiting Europa. Their discussion on the fruitless ritual of daily existence and the vanity of individuality didn’t sit very well alongside all the ray guns and rocketships in the rest of the book but I wouldn’t have missed it.  Terrific.

By contrast ‘Queen’s Iris, Or: The Initial Adventures Of Roderick Langstrom, Or: The Tale Of General Smith, Featuring Roderick Langston, Or: Space Pirates’ by Jason Anspach is an out and out comedy, a romp in which a tyrant Queen clearly based on Elizabeth I sends privateers against a rival empire. Jolly good fun and inevitably made me think of ‘Blackadder II’, mostly because of the mad Queen. They should have placed it next to ‘The Trenches Of Centauri Prime’ with its ‘Blackadder Goes Fourth’ impression.

Will McIntosh gives us ‘Just Drive’ in which narrator Carrie Sardonopoli and her family are zooming around in an SUV desperately trying to survive. Buzztops have invaded Earth. They come in all shapes and sizes, from big as a house to small as a rat. They are log-shaped with a hundred legs and a mouth that will eat anything in their path. The Buzztops come through some sort of gateway. This reminded me of early Stephen King somehow and the plot took some nice twists along the road to the unexpected ending.

Maya K. Bohnhoff leapt into contention for favourite story with ‘Water Babies’. Omar Navarro is only a junior member of the International Cetacean Institute so he doesn’t have a lot of say in the matter when they capture a pod of unusual dolphins; dolphins with necks. Omar’s empathy causes problems and there’s a bit of romance to warm your heart as well. The characters are nicely drawn and realistic and the writing is flawless. I liked it enough to look up the author’s website and sign up for her newsletter.

David Bruns is next up. ‘Take Only Memories, Leave Only Footprints’ is the motto of the World Interstellar Park Rangers who patrol the planets trying to preserve biodiversity without disturbing local cultures. Zive is a ranger who recently lost her familiar, a Venusian sand otter named Felix, and is still grieving. She has an urgent mission on Ravos to save elephant-style creatures hunted for their tusks from the pre-industrial natives. This mixes those favourite Prime Directive issues with plenty of action in a satisfying blend. Combined with the previous yarn it might be enough to make you go vegetarian.

Last but not least is ‘This Deceitful State Of Truth’ by Patty Jansen. Ellinor Darga is an auditor, not the usual profession for adventure stories. She is revisiting the cloud city of Mellivar to check their accounts. The council members she knew of old are gone and there’s a new clique in place who are distinctly unfriendly. The stranger in a small town being menaced theme is always effective, think ‘Bad Day At Black Rock’ and there’s some astronomy and myth busting to liven things up. The low-tech cloud city was wonderfully described but I wouldn’t want to live there.

This is an excellent anthology which I thoroughly enjoyed and a staggering amount of good reading for the money. Hours of fun for less than the price of a coffee. The stories range from military SF adventure to tales of exploration, invasion and future gangsters. All the authors write well and some very well. For many contributors, the idea is to make you fall in love with the worlds shown and pick up their novel series and why not? In a highly competitive market where it’s difficult to get noticed, it’s a good idea for mid-list writers to form a collective. After all, it worked for the Borg.

Eamonn Murphy

January 2018

(pub: Sci-Fi Bridge. 409 pages ebook. File Size: 3259.0kb. Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited. Price: £ 1.99 (UK), $ 2.69 (US). ASIN: B078SDK2Z5)

check out websites: www.scifibridge.com/ and www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Across-Stars-Original-Anthology-ebook/dp/B078SDK2Z5/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516045484&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Bridge+Across+the+Stars%2C+A+Science+Fiction+Anthology+presented+by+Sci-Fi+Bridge

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Category: Books, Scifi

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Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction and fantasy writer and reviewer who lives in the south west of England. If you want to know more visit his website: https://eamonnmurphyblog.wordpress.com/

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