Where can you go to find the best of the best in MilSF? For great MilSF short stories from today’s best authors, look no further than the anthology So It Begins (Book Two in the Defending the Future series) edited by Mike McPhail, who coincidentally has an entry in this collection, the inimitable and a great offer “Cling Peaches”. There are sixteen short stories in the anthology, including the superlative “Surrender or Die”, an additional short story by David Sherman, written by fifteen authors. Charles E. Gannon has two stories in So It Begins (as I’ll call the anthology from now on throughout this review), both very good, “Recidivism,” which opens the book, and “To Spec.” One of the features that I really like about the anthology is that there is a section called Author Biographies at the end of the book, before the bonus content story, so you can read about the authors and what they have written and learn more about them. they. if you are not familiar with them.
I can’t go very deep and give a detailed analysis of each of the short stories unless I do this prohibitively long review, but I really enjoyed reading each of the MilSF short stories in the anthology, so I’ll mention at least a little bit about some of them. stories, to give you an idea of the literary feast they have in store for you when you read this collection. I’ve briefly mentioned four already, and in one paragraph, so I’m doing pretty well… except for this expository paragraph, anyway. But there are “brief” mentions of short stories, and then there are brief mentions, which means nothing, except that I’ll go back to the four I already mentioned, write a few more sentences about each one, then cover a few of the other short stories.
MilSF novels and stories with a lot of blood, guts, and action are great, and I usually rank the ones with tons of these three elements as my favorites. But, I like a good story that zigzags when you think it should, or funny or wacky ones too. That’s why “Cling Peaches” is one of my favorite stories in the anthology. The title alone made me wonder what the hell it could be about and made me want to read it. Then, the search by the story’s two main characters, chief engineer William Donovich and a technician named Patterson for an alien stowaway who likes gooey peaches in heavy syrup, was tense and sometimes hilarious, and kept my attention rapt throughout the entire process. whole.
The two short stories by Charles E. Gannon were also impressive. “Backsliding,” is a gem about Dan, “a data-entry clerk with no reasonable hope of advancement,” who in his Ph.D. proposal dared to suggest that aliens might one day try to take over his planet and possibly even sterilize it. to its inhabitants, they should not cooperate peacefully. No one believes him, until one day when… “To Spec”, Gannon’s second short story, involves a soldier in the ExoAtmospheric Corps who guards a Great Secret without knowing what it is, and is consumed with curiosity to find out what it is. that is. that is why he is risking his life. He added two and two, and… well, math was never my strong point, but I know that in this case “two and two” adds up to a great story about one of the many ways I could spell Doomsday: CME, or: “A coronal mass ejection.”
David Sherman is another of today’s leading MilSF authors. He also writes MilFantasy novels, like his brilliant DemonTech series. “Surrender Or Die” is a DemonTech adventure in which a land called “The Easterlies” is being invaded by the feared Jokapkul people, whose ships have “approached Handor’s Bay”. If he is not familiar with the concept of what exactly “DemonTech” means, it is that various types of trained demons are used for warlike purposes, such as powering weapons. Some are used to heal people or to make them invisible. An example of this in “Surrender Or Die” is an imbaluris, “the size of a large owl”, that is “used as a messenger”. “Surrender Or Die” is a cool addition to the DemonTech canon.
“The Last Report of Unit Twenty-Two” by John C. Wright is the second story in the anthology. Wright is the husband of another fantastic author, L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright). They both write awesome fantasy and MilSF works that I highly recommend. Unit Twenty-Two is a sentient robot whose job is to mine ore from asteroids. It has a brain that is very human-like, and though it has been diligently mining ore for years, it gets it into its head by picking up commercial broadcasts that there is more to life than mining. Unit Twenty-Two wants to somehow travel to Earth and spend the rest of their days there; for him, it would be like Heaven. How he gets there and what happens to him when he does is a great addition to this anthology.
James Daniel Ross is the well-known author of the Radiation Angels book series, and “The Nature of Mercy” is from the Chronicles of the Radiation Angels. I liked it from his vivid opening sentence: “He was as cold as seven dead men, buried long and deep.” At first, it struck me as a story about a father taking his son on a hunting trip to the planet Ozmandius in the dead of winter, a sort of “coming of age” story. What he became is something else; is the story of a boy who definitely has to grow up too fast, and his father, who is trying to get to a reinforced bunker with his son to make a last stand against the robots that have turned religious and become they have grown old. Testament on the entire human population of Ozmandius. They were programmed by humans to be without sin, but unfortunately, they also lack any sense of mercy. Great story; I will definitely want to read more of Ross in the future.
I must mention the short story “Clean Sweeps” by Jonathan Maberry; As well as being a good story, for those who may have never heard of Maberry, he is the author of the amazing zombie novel Patient Zero, and a great novel that I reviewed elsewhere. , The Dragon Factory, about DNA manipulation, mad scientists, and doomsday diseases being released globally in an effort to genetically cleanse the world. Good stuff… “Clean Sweeps” illustrates that the media and the military don’t always get along, like oil and water in that regard. Or, actually, sometimes they mix too well, but occasionally at a high cost in human life.
The narrator is a Free-Ops sergeant and has a reporter (Tennet) built into his unit. They are on a raid on a factory that has allegedly been illegally manufacturing and selling weapons to space pirates. The thing is that they got the wrong information, and the people who work in the factory are civilians and they are not making illegal weapons. The entire operation has been organized by people in command above the narrator, for publicity, and the report will not mention that the factory was actually legitimate, run by civilians.
I’ll say a few things briefly about two more stories in the anthology, “First Line,” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, the wife of Mike McPhail and a very talented author; and “Everything’s Better With Monkeys,” by CJ Henderson, author of the Piers Knight series of novels, including Brooklyn Knight and Central Park Knight. “First Line,” is a short story of devotion taken to the extreme, by Lieutenant Sheila “Trey” Tremaine, “an officer assigned to the 428th Special Operations Unit, MOS: Demolitions Specialist.” When an enemy round knocks her down and “kills” her, she at the last moment agrees to have her memories implanted into a mechanical demolition unit. She tells him that if she accepts, her experience and training will be passed on that way and, although she will lose knowledge of her personality, she can still make a contribution. But, she doesn’t forget about her past life and who she is, at all….
“Everything is Better with Monkeys” is a clean and cheerful story that is also one of my favorites in a collection of truly great stories. CJ wrote a short story, “Shore Leave,” in the first Defending the Future anthology, Breach the Hull, with the same two main characters, Gunnery Chief Rockland Vespucci (Rocky) and Machinist First Officer Li Qui Kon (Noodles). ). They serve aboard the Roosevelt and generally unintentionally manage to mess things up and get into trouble. However, in this short story, they discover how to communicate with globular aliens on a distant planet who, four hundred years in the future, communicate through song and dance. Well Noodles does, Rocky is pretty pitiful in both of them, but they manage to save the day in a very enjoyable story.
Thus It Begins is a must read for anyone who loves MilSF. The Tales I Didn’t Mention, “War Movies,” by James Chambers; “Junked” by Andy Remic; Gunnery Sergeant by Jeffrey Lyman; Jack Campbell’s “Grendel”; Bud Sparhawk’s “The Glass Box”; and last but not least, Tony Ruggiero’s “Looking For a Good Time” are also great, and I apologize to the authors for not mentioning them in more detail here, but I’m afraid I’m writing quite a review already. long. . The fact that I didn’t cover them more thoroughly doesn’t reflect their overall excellent quality: there’s just no junk at all in Thus It Begins, which makes it difficult to do the anthology as a whole justice. I would recommend it to anyone who loves science fiction, especially MilSF.