Hello everyone! I usually don’t post book reviews on my blog, but I’m making an exception for Mirror World Publishing’s new anthology Far, Far Away.
In today’s post, I’ll be giving a quick review of each story including a content warning (cw), so you know what to expect if you pick up a copy of the anthology.
And folks, it’s going to be my legit reviews. I encourage you, if you read this book, to also post your reviews on whatever platform you use, even send them along to Mirror World. They’re planning a volume 2 of this anthology, so I’m sure they’d appreciate the feedback.
“Piece of Mind” by L.R. Braden
An interstellar ark for human minds goes on a journey to save the human race. But as time drags on, what makes the minds human begins to degrade.
Really enjoyed the concept of this one, though I felt like the story could’ve been a bit longer. Strong P.O.V. and deft writing made this one a solid starter for this collection.
cw: isolation, memory loss, violence
“Songs and Superstitions” by Shana Scott
Now an outsider, Krem returns to his home planet to work a job with his best friend Max and her insufferable companion, Commodore McFlufferton. When the job goes wrong, they discover that they’re not alone in the underground tunnels.
This may have been my favourite story of the collection. The characterizations are strong, there’s a vibrant streak of humor throughout, and the world-building feels effortless. There were so many little details that made this story a delight to read, as well as a satisfying arc overall.
cw: underground, cave in, guns
“Black Spire Isles” by Barend Nieuwstraten III
Shipwrecked on an island no one ever leaves, the group of survivors uncovers centuries-old secrets. There is magic at work here, but will they find out the truth before it’s too late?
I wasn’t sure about this one when I started. The preamble before the story was a bit much to take in, and the writing had an archaic flavour common to high fantasy stories. However, as the story got going and the style loosened up a bit, it really drew me in and became one of my favourites from the collection. It reminded me of parts of the Odyssey. And the end was satisfying, very well-crafted. My only qualm was that the people already living on the island are portrayed as a group, with little individual characterization apart from their roles in the community. Given that it was a short story, though, I’ll give it a pass.
cw: gender roles, shipwreck, injury recovery, themes of loss
“Field Notes from the Unknown Planet” by Brittni Brinn
When Idylwild finds herself on a dangerous planet under strange constellations, she’ll have to use all of her skills as a surveyor to survive the resident predators.
I wrote this one, so I’ll leave the reviewing to you all!
cw: isolation, childbirth, death
“The Colour of Roses” by Kelly D. Holmes
In a world where only Soulmates can see colours, a young woman discovers the nature of soulmates isn’t so obvious after all.
Think of the part in The Giver where the kid sees red for the first time, then move that concept out of a dystopic YA novel and set it instead at a supportive writing group in the suburbs. It was a sweet story, and fit nicely in the middle of the book. Some stand-out imagery work, especially playing with the title. Given that this is Holmes’s first publishing credit, I say bravo.
cw: heteronormativity, themes of loss
“The Prime Crusade” by Buddy Young
Time travelers aboard the Hindenburg fight to save time itself in the face of impending disaster.
So. This is a story that takes place almost entirely on the Hindenburg, an airship that crashed in 1937. This is fine. It’s a historical event that would definitely draw time travelers to experience the famous airship before it was destroyed. The story itself is well-written, with attention to detail and historical tidbits ingrained into the story. And who doesn’t love a good time travel story? Well, I did not love the part where the heroes wore Nazi armbands and their main contact was a time traveler pretending to be an SS officer. You could argue that they were all just playing a part and their use of Nazi imagery didn’t mean anything. But the thing that really stood out was how not one of the time travelers wanted to punch the Nazis on board. Even if it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the story, shouldn’t at least one time traveler be there for the sole purpose of punching Nazis? If Indiana Jones had time to fight Nazis, I should think someone on that airship would have made time to do so too.
It CONFOUNDS me that this story was chosen to be included in this anthology. With fascist ideologies gaining more ground in the United States and Canada, these “harmless” and “neutral” stories featuring Nazi imagery aren’t really that neutral at all. If memory serves, this author had two stories shortlisted for the top ten stories that were submitted. Why was the one featuring Nazi imagery, as window dressing as it was, chosen? Maybe this doesn’t bother anyone else, but I found it concerning. And don’t even get me started on the Crusades.
cw: Nazi imagery, sexual harassment, war, violence, the Crusades
“Fatestorm” by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred
When her village is destroyed by a colonizing military force, Deneige tries to help her people by falling in love with the soldier in charge.
The framework of a Roman-esque soldier leading a massacre of a village, enslaving the survivors, and taking their spiritual leader captive doesn’t really feel like a set up for a love story to me. But, to each their own.
cw: genocide, slavery, colonization
And that’s the anthology! I told you these would be my legit responses. I also wanted to provide a place for content warnings, because I believe it’s important to recognize the elements that may be triggering to readers. If I missed anything, let me know! I hope that if you pick up this anthology, that you’ll join the discussion about the stories inside. Words are how we shape the future as writers and as readers, after all.