‘Far Orbit Apogee’ is the second in the ‘Far Orbit’ series of anthologies edited by Bascomb James. This anthology description says that it ‘takes all of the fun-to-read adventure, ingenuity, and heroism of mid-century pulp fiction and reshapes it into modern space adventures crafted by a new generation of writers’. Does it deliver? Well, I’m a tough customer when it comes to short stories and take a lot of convincing but I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable collection, with a number of stories that I’d not hesitate to recommend to others. I’ll mention a few of them below.
My absolute favourite story was ‘The Affairs Of Dragons’ by Julie Frost. Following the crew of a spaceship as they transport a cargo of dragon eggs, the story gives us comedy, adventure, a good dose of action and an insight into dragon politics. It was a fairly light-hearted read that made me think of Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’ television series. I believe that Frost has written other stories featuring this crew and their adventures and I’d certainly like to read more of them.
I also particularly liked ‘Murder at Tranquillity Base’ by Dave Creek. When I’m not reading Science Fiction and fantasy, you’ll often find me enjoying a good crime thriller, so I’m always excited to find novels and stories that feature crossovers of the two genres. They can be disappointing but ‘Murder At Tranquillity Base’ pulled together a good blend of the two styles and kept me guessing right to the end. It was great to explore the crime scene with the characters and follow them as they realise that sometimes not even their own memories can be trusted.
‘A Most Exceptional Scholarship’ was more in the style of a YA offering from Nestor Delfino, following an Earth teenager as he joins an intergalactic school where dozens of races are brought together to learn from each other. Making the difficult choice to leave his unwell aunt behind on Earth, Toby works hard to learn all he can about the other species, hoping to become the first human to progress to the second year of studies. When bad news arrives from home, he must make the most difficult choice he has faced. This is a light story that captures much of the wonder of exploration through a curious and optimistic teenager who gets the chance of a lifetime. It was another story that I enjoyed, even though at times it felt a bit like a synopsis of a longer novel, there’s certainly potential there for more stories or a full novel to come out of this one.
The final story I’d like to mention is ‘To Defend And Keep From Harm’ by Anna Salonen. This is an action-filled space opera with a fully realised world packed into the pages of this short story. I was thoroughly impressed with how much Salonen managed to convey about both the characters and the world in such a short number of pages. It’s got elements of military SF in with the space opera and reminded me in parts of both ‘The Expanse’ series by James S.A. Corey and the ‘Takeshi Kovacs’ novels by Richard Morgan. This is another story where I’d be keen to read more set in this world, even following the same characters, as I think it gives a great snapshot of something that could be much bigger.
A short story collection containing different authors is always going to contain stories you like and stories you aren’t so keen on, that’s to be expected. This one had more stories that I enjoyed than stories I didn’t and introduced me to several new authors that I’d certainly like to encounter again. I think there’s enough variety in here for every kind of SF lover and, if you’re looking to dip into something a little shorter between epic novels, this is a pretty good choice.
(pub: World Weaver Press, 2015. 316 page paperback. Price: £ 9.79(UK) ISBN: 978-0-69250-976-0)
check out website: www.WorldWeaverPress.com