Crises and Conflicts edited by Ian Whates (book review)

December 27, 2016 | By | Reply More

Celebrating ten years of well-known UK small press publisher NewCon Press, editor and owner Ian Whates has launched a series of anthologies with various themes, including ‘Crises And Conflicts’, the third of such space opera and military SF anthologies from the imprint. This one includes sixteen stories by a fine array of well-known and up-and-coming authors. I’ll comment on some of my favourites.

Adam Roberts’ deep-space combat story ‘Between Nine And Eleven’ is set in what could be a standard alien war scenario, but the weapon developed by the enemy is awesome, both in concept and in its effect. I was wowed by the elegant brilliance of the concept which perfectly complemented the otherwise straightforward plot.

There are a number of stories about marines battling it out against varying alien foes and each have a different twist to them, a different setting or unique kind of technology. One that particularly stood out to me was ‘Hill 435’ by Tim C. Taylor. An experienced NCO leads a group of new marines in a desperate assault on the eponymous hill and its shielded base and then, suddenly, the story completely changes pace and gives us a different perspective on the war. It’s very well done.

In Janet Edwards’ ‘The Wolf, The Goat, And the Cabbage’, a hapless diplomatic aide is caught up in an assassination and finds himself out of his depth during a hairy escape and rescue mission. There was a nice bit of humour to this one and a refreshing change from the heroic soldiers of many of the stories to someone who was mostly a passenger for this tale but who gives us an interestingly naive point of view.

A group of lunar miners stave off a Japanese invasion in Christopher Nuttall’s breezy yarn ‘Pickaxes And Shovels’. Protagonist Jack tells the gritty, unglamorous tale of what life was really like on the Moon, with numerous references to the more glamorous but less realistic Hollywood film version. It’s great fun.

I’ve read all (I think) of Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘Wergen’ stories, and this probably added to my enjoyment of ‘Tactics For Optimal Outcomes In Negotiations With Wergen Ambassadors’. The story is presented as a draft report, including comments, footnotes and video transcripts on the subject. It paints a fascinating picture of humanity’s unique relationship with this alien species and refers to incidents and settings from several other stories which, if you’ve read them, allows you to nod along knowingly to the report’s recommendations. If you haven’t read them, then I’m sure you’ll still find this story fascinating.

The book concludes with the longest story, ‘The Beauty Of Our Weapons’ by Gavin Smith. The story skips through several episodes in the life of Cain, an immortal who spends his life as a soldier and participates in many of the great wars and battles of history. There are some nice historical details included and philosophical questions that imbue the fighting with greater depth. Cain is not always on the winning side nor even the ‘right’ side in these battles, but struggles to find meaning in what gradually becomes more of a slaughter than a noble pursuit. It’s a fine end to the volume.

As usual this is a solid collection from NewCon Press, with a great mixture of authors I’m familiar with and names new to me. The title ‘Crises And Conflicts’ allows for greater variety than if it were simply all battles and heroic marines and the stories that give this change of pace are nicely interspersed throughout the volume to make it an altogether satisfying read.

Gareth D Jones

December 2016

(pub: Newcon Press. 249 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $18.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-901935-17-0)

check out website: www.newconpress.co.uk

Category: Books, Scifi

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