Warriors 2 – edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
This is part (2/3) of a series of short story anthologies edited by two of the best known names in the business. (See the review of 1/3, here.) As before, the theme comes with no genre restriction, leading to a good mix of material. Here, there are half a dozen short stories, and David Weber’s 120 page novella.
Naomi Novik‘s Seven Years from Home is a poignant, sharp tale about interstellar politics, war, and diplomacy, told from the perspective of one significant player. It also features some clever ideas about alien cultures, and fairly rattles along. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a novel length treatment and extended development of this setting.
Peter S. Beagle‘s Dirae starts with a seemingly incoherent jumble of words that the reader may skim over, but will return to when the mist has cleared, and the setting, situation, and everything else has become a little clearer. It’s a sort of urban fantasy featuring a female vigilante, and a series of encounters with evil doers. I found it engrossing, and fairly complete and self contained. Thoughtful.
S. M. Stirling‘s Ancient Ways is a post apocalyptic coming together of two warriors, from very different societies. It’s a bit of a romp, though well done, and packing plenty into its restricted format. Good entertainment.
David Ball‘s The Scroll is a very dark and gruesome tale, set in olden Morocco, about the evil emperor, and his cruelty towards his slave work force. I would describe it as a glass half full type of story. It keeps its focus well, and sticks to the task of recounting the suffering, and the attempts to escape from that hell. Definitely dark.
Gardner Dozois‘ Recidivist is a tale about the decline of planet Earth, the race against time by fleets of machines to strip the resources from each threatened locale, and the machinations of the the survivors to try and overcome their tormentors. This is not the weirdest story in the book, but it comes close. I’ll probably go back and read this one again, to see if there’s anything I missed.
Howard Waldrop‘s Ninieslando gets the prize for the weirdest story. Set in the trench warfare of an alternate World War 1, it tells of one soldier’s escape from the killing, and the strange community he becomes part of. One of the key threads is the use of Esperanto, without which the plot sinks without trace. That having been said, there are some subtle, and not so subtle, messages delivered in the course of this short piece. However, I preferred the writing to the story. Interesting experiment.
David Weber‘s Out of the Dark is a military ‘Earth is invaded’ type adventure, with buckets of death and destruction, as the outgunned humans try to fight back. There are some interesting cultural differences on show, and Weber does a good job of making the story crack along. I won’t spoil the plot, so no details. Although I did see the final twist coming, it still worked well. The author has taken the opportunity offered by the longer format, and done a good job. There’s not too much flab, and the action fairly rattles along. Whatever self indulgence is in the story can be excused, given what a good read is on offer. Good stuff.
Conclusion: about the same level of overall quality as the first, it’s an affirmation of the editorial talents of Dozois and Martin. Weber’s was the standout piece, though the experience here has definitely heightened my interest in all the writers. Again, I would give it 7/10 as a package.