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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Corrupts Absolutely? Dark Metahuman Fiction edited by Lincon Crisler (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read Meta-Morality Panel discussion between Authors (W. Ochse, W. Ligon, J. Tucker, E. Erdelac)
Read Meta-Misses Panel discussion between Authors (J. Strand, T. Wooldridge, A. Spencer)
Read the forthcoming schedule of Panel discussions

EDITOR INFORMATION - Lincoln Crisler was introduced to the occult as a child and learnt about the Tarot in his childhood years. He then joined the United States Army and is a combat veteran who has done atleast three tours and currently is a non-commissioned officer. He is also the author of two short story collections (Despairs & Delights, 2008 and Magick & Misery, 2009) and one novella (WILD, 2011). His work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, to include HUB Magazine, Shroud Publishing’s Abominations anthology and IDW‘s forthcoming Robots vs. Zombies anthology. He is also a member of the Horror Writers Association. He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his family. His interests include spending time with his family, listening to music, cooking, web design and politics.

ANALYSIS: Most of us have always been fascinated by superheroes. In this anthology Lincoln Crisler dares to ask the question why people with powers would always turn to good? Focussing on the powerful words by the first Baron Acton, comes an anthology focussing on the shadier side of metahumans. I'll be speaking about each story as it will be in line with the previous anthology FBC reviews and simply makes more sense.

Retribution by Tim Marquitz – The anthology begins with this exciting tale by Tim Marquitz. It’s about a person who has lost his family during the events of America’s biggest tragedy (9/11). The story then reveals as to what might happen to such a person who gains a certain type of power and decides to extract a certain kind of retribution. It’s not pretty and the author doesn’t really make any amends for the protagonist’s behavior. It is a stark story, which asks the reader to imagine what happens when a person’s reason to live is extinguished and they get a chance to do what their mind tells them. A rather good tale but on the shorter side and a good opener to this collection.

Hollywood Villany by Weston Ochse – This was a rather different story; it begins by shifting narratives and basically is about a boy who just “wants his two dollars back”. The story constantly keeps the readers on their toes and ends the story with a twist that might definitely get a lot of reader’s attention. I however didn’t quite the story as much, the constant narrative switches kind of ruined the read for me.

Mental Man by William Todd Rose – Mental Man is concept which has been explored in some horror stories and can be described as a cross between Dean Koontz's Hideaway and Thomas Harris's Red Dragon. However the twist being in this story that protagonist never manages to see the killer’s face as the killer shatters all mirrors and reflective surfaces. The tale is quite an excellent one as it basically examines the relationship between a hero and his nemesis. This story basically works as it has a sixth sense moment in the end and for me this was first of the standout stories in this anthology.

The Real Church by Jeremy Hepler – The real church explores an angle which is very interesting to read about. Owen McKinney is the protagonist of this tale which has him exploring what it means to follow in Jesus’s steps however there’s a catch to this power. That’s what makes this tale so absorbing and the way it ends, it makes you want to know more about Owen McKinney and the world of Real Church. Another very good story with a angle which will be interesting to read about.

Ozymandias Revisited by A.S. Fox – Originally I thought that this tale was perhaps revisiting one of Watchmen most intriguing characters. However turns out that it has noting to do with that iconic book but it is basically about the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy B. Shelley. The original poem talks mortality and human arrogance, A.S. Fox takes the gist of the poem and then turns it around by showcasing an omnipowerful, narcissistic persona who talks about his way and his whims which continuously affect the way and remolds it. A fascinating story but one that ends in a weird way.

Enlightened by Sin by Jason M. Tucker – This is one of the better stories in the book which showcases Victor, an individual who goes after killers a-la Dexter however the difference being that his power allows him to know about the person’s intimate wrong-doing and sins. Convinced about his tract he soon encounters a superhero Captain Justice and a killer Red Dahlia that to might lead to his doom. An excellent short story that if made into a longer book will be something, which I would love read more about.

The Origin of Slashy by Jeff Strand – This is one of the darker tales of the book and deals with a rape survivor called Kaylee who soon discovers her power thereafter. Its what she does with it that leads to the darkness of the story. A story about a fall in to madness of sorts, it very well could be the darkest story of the book and one which highlights the central theme of the collection.

Conviction by Edward M. Erdelac – This is one of the weirder tales in the book which does not do much to explain the origin of the main character’s powers however showcases how much powerful an emotional connection can be. Set from the perspective of a young African-American boy called Abassi who goes on a rampage of sorts a la King Kong because of sentimental reasons. The way this story is written really draws a chord with the reader however the ending is a bit ambiguous.

Threshold by Kris Ashton – Simply put this was my favorite story of the entire collection, its about a person who is compelled to kill because of the building pressure in his head very similar to migraines. The story pursues a very interesting thread as it fundamentally asks the question in a struggle between the heart and the head, what would triumph? The ending is also a great one and I would love to see this story be transformed into a novel-length story simply to see what happens in the end.

Oily by A.D. Spencer – Oily is about a super heroine who seeks guilty people as Cat’s eye with the help of her father’s words. She however meets someone that befuddles her directives. A story, which has an interesting premise but after the previous stories with similar premises, this one simply doesn’t manage to reach the levels of the earlier ones. A decent effort but definitely could have been better.

Hero by Joe McKinney - This story is built around the Cassandra myth and set in modern times. Robert Hanover is the man who can see seven minutes and twenty two seconds in to the future. However akin to his mythological sibling no one really believes him. This story is set from the perspective of the physician treating him, an excellent story and one whose twist in the end manages to completely surprise the reader.

Pride by Wayne Ligon – Probably my second favorite story in this collection, Pride shares characteristics with the X-men storyline of the 90s and a bit with the recently released Myke Cole debut. This story is set in Detroit and focuses on Calvin Carmichael, a metahuman who is forced to be a sub-human because of his past. This story deals about personhood, freedom and the right to pursue happiness, with an ending that definitely matches the premise of the story, Pride is one of the standout tales of this myriad collection.

G-Child by Malon Edwards – This tale is about a girl superhero who is team mates with a stronger hero and who is having a nervous breakdown. Set in the past and present, the story follows twin threads to show the readers why Aieesha is the way she is. The tale didn’t quite work for me as I couldn’t connect with the narrator or her can of woes. The ending, which tries to salvage the story doesn’t do enough.

Static by Jason Gehlert – Static is a story which begins on a bridge and the reader is immediately dumped into the happenings of the world. It has to do with why people are acting strange or killing themselves and its upto Licoln Carter and John Buchanan to figure out why. This story feels more of a part of a larger tale and the way it starts and ends might leave several readers with an acute sense of vrtigo or unfinished business.

Illusion by Karina Fabian – Illusion is another dark story in this collection and focuses upo Daryl Stephens, a teenager with an acute issue. Heart breaking in its execution and premise, this story dwells upon what happens to those who are given power and are yet unready to wield it. The story opens up with Daryl who chants a mantra to help him but often fails and yet it provides him with an illusion of sorts. An interesting story but again one which perhaps ends too starkly.

Sabre by Anthony Laffan – Sabre is a tale, which examines the Iron Man/Tony Stark story mode as it focuses upon Sabre the hero. However as an investigative reporter finds out to her chagrin what the hero’s presence has been actually doing. With a very neat twist inserted in the end, the athor quickly closes off this tale by showcasing what a Tony Stark-like persona might really aspire to. A highly entertaining story and one that makes the reader sit up and take notice.

Crooked by Lee Mather - Crooked is another interesting story dealing with mobsters and vendettas. The protagonist is a person looking to escape his past life with his loved ones however what happens when the past catches up with him and how de face it is the crux of this story. A bit Machiavellian in its premise, the story ends up with a strong twist and the protagonist has shades of Glotka from the Joe Abercrombie series, a good tale but perhaps could have been fleshed out better.

Fixed by Trisha J. WooldridgeFixed is a tale about a working woman Victoria Cheetham who has to decide on her priorities, sandwiched between her professional work and personal life she strives to strike a balance between her demanding boss and her family. The story was a bit of a hodge-podge effort for me, on one hand it had a comedic sheen to it and on the other it strove to be serious as well. The end result being that it managed to be neither, one of the weaker stories in the book for me.

Acquainted with the Night by Cat Rambo – Acquainted by Night is a tale of a person pushed to the very limits of his humanity and is told through a series of vignettes about the main character. What follows is a tale that might not sit lightly with some readers and follows a Greek tragedy of sorts. A dark tale which though powerful feels a bit incomplete.

Gone Rogue by Wayne Helge - The penultimate story in this collection is a quirky light hearted one, which pretty much surmises what the plot is going to be about. Focusing on a sidekick who plays the man Friday to Zooster the superhero. He pretty much finds out that the superhero biz isn’t that cracked out as its made to be. Hilarity and zany situations ensue thereby giving us an ending which very well surmises that for every hero to be one, there needs to be an arch-nemesis.

Max and Rose by Andrew Bourelle – This tale ends the book and does so with something of a damp squib, focusing on the two titular characters it recreates and evening and perhaps acts as a spiritual prequel to the earlier tale “Ozymandias Revisited”. While the author cleverly shows the signs of trouble in the couple’s life, the tale overall doesn’t do much to impress the reader, it ends up being a decent effort.

CONCLUSION: Lincoln Crisler has taken pains to choose this myriad collection of stories exploring the theme of Metahumans acting out inhumanely and there are quite a few zingers to this collection. Some of the stories like Threshold and Pride are the jewels in this collection that perhaps should be further explored in the longer format IMHO. This is a collection very much in vein of “Masked” by Lou Anders however with a tenebrous and twisted bent to it. Give it a try and see what it feels like to be Corrupted Absolutely!



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