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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Manifesto UF: edited by Tim Marquitz & Tyson Mauermann (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author website
Order the anthology HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Armageddon Bound
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Resurrection 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of At The Gates and Betrayal
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Echoes Of The Past 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Beyond The Veil
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of From Hell
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Tim Marquitz 

EDITOR INFORMATION: Tim Marquitz is the author of the Demon Squad series, and the Sepulchral Earth serial stories. He is also an editor, a heavy metal aficionado, a Mixed Martial Arts fan, and is also a member of the Live Action Role Playing organization. When he’s not busy writing dark stories, which catch his imagination he also manages to go about his day job. Tim lives in El Paso, Texas with his wonderful family.

EDITOR INFORMATION: Tyson Mauermann was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. He graduated from the Eastern Washington University with degrees in History, Geography, and Satellite Imagery Analysis. He later went back to the University of Washington to receive his Teaching Certificate and his Masters in Education. After several years of teaching English and History in public schools he was bit by the travel bug and in 2009, he packed his bags and flew to South Korea where he teaches English to middle school students at a public school.

Tyson is constantly reading something whether it is fantasy, science fiction, history or a book that attempts to teach him how to speak Korean so that it can make his life easier when ordering a chilled and frosty adult beverage. He currently lives with his wife in American northwest.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This anthology was something I was looking forward for twofold reasons:
 a) It focusses on urban fantasy, a favorite sub-genre of mine.
 b) Because Tim and Tyson were helming this project. Both of whom are capable editors in themselves and also are good friends of mine.

The blurb can be read here and I'll be commenting about each story as it simply helps in elucidating what I liked and disliked about each story (apologies in advance for its length):

Rev by Kirk Dougal – The anthology opener is one that focuses on Revenants and the protagonist of the story is one seeking escape from his undead lifestyle. An old Welsh legend might be the key to his salvation but can he beat fate? This story was an interesting one with an odd twist to the usual zombie story and the way it ended made me curious as to whether a sequel would be written. A good opener if not a stellar one.

I’m an Animal. You’re an Animal, Too by Zachary Jernigan – The first thing I liked about the story was the title and coming from Zachary, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this one. The story is simply about an initiation unlike any other and with enough doses of savagery and black humor made this story the first gem in this collection. Dark, brutal and with a few cameos, IAAYAAT gives us the first clue that this is not like most other urban fantasy anthologies, very highly recommended!

Los Lagos Heat by Karina FabianLos Lagos Heat focuses on Vern and is a short story from The Case Files of DragonEye series. In this world wherein the Faerie and the Mundane have met and struck up awkward symbiosis of sorts, Vern gets handed a case of a missing dryad. Of course nothing is as ever simple in any P.I. story and in this one, there’s crime, magic and gods muddying the waters. An interesting story with a good conclusion, Karina Fabian really intrigues the reader via her protagonist Vern and the curious world he calls his abode. Another fun and intriguing addition to this collection.

Savage Rise by Adam MillardSavage Rise is the second time I've come across any of Adam Millard’s work, rest assured it won’t be the last. Savage Rise focuses on Frank who recalls the horrific event he underwent nearly a year ago in Birmingham, UK. This story has quite a bit of horror to it and the way the story expands, readers will be hooked to see what happens in the end. I loved this dark tale and should the author expand it to a novella or book, I would among the first in line to buy a copy.

Front Lines, Big City by Timothy Baker – This story was something more in line with Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series and features an unnamed narrator who is caught up with a terrible situation. This short almost seemed like a chapter out of a longer story and perhaps left me with a longing to read it in its entirety. For some that might be a plus and for others, it might be detracting so it will be up to the reader to decide. Overall it was an interesting story.

Break Free by Ryan Lawler – The way the author had paraphrased writing this story was his story would mix Matthew Reilly’s explosive story style with magic and it is a very high-octane story. Max is the protagonist who is trying to break free his father from a prison high up in the clouds. A fast-paced story that has a huge, serious twist in the end, this was another plus point for this collection.

Naked the Night Sings by Teresa Frohock – This was another story, whose title was attention-grabbing, plus it was written by Teresa Frohock and so I was assured of two things; elegant prose and dark settings. Not only does the author does her best in creating a rich, dark atmosphere but she also goes about creating admirable characters who leave you hooked onto the story. Another fine dark gem from an author who is fast becoming a solid favorite of mine.

Double Date by Andrew Moczulski – This was another surprise in this collection. Focusing on two individuals who take different routes to get to the same pest, the author explores a neat concept. The story is told through the eyes of Eric Margrave who is a hunter and has a strange partner. His most recent mission however will bring him into more trouble and a competitor as well. A great urban fantasy short with a strong narrative voice.

That Old Tree by R.L. Treadway – This was a very confusing story set in a neighborhood with a typical cast of characters. The way the author has written it can be a tad cumbersome in regards to the actual happenings in the story and some of the dialogue of the narrator. A tale about retribution that is seen through the eyes of an ancient one, That Old Tree was a story that will liked depending upon your temperament.

Dharmasankat by Abhinav Jain – This was another favorite of mine as Abhinav Jain basically subverted urban fantasy with an Indian twist and also at the same time, used a cool mythological story to tie it in with his set up. The story focuses on Vikram, a warrior in training to be a Dharmayoddha. He gets tasked to deal with a rather obnoxious guru whose wishes seem to be unholy to say the least. A very nice story which will require some understanding of Indian terms and mythology and another strong, diverse addition to this fabulous collection.

Nephilim by TSP Sweeney – This one was first story to focus on angels and it had a good noir-ish edge to it. Focussing on Dantalion, a fallen angel who is hunting the source of a new drug called “neph” in Hong Kong. Dantalion soon finds that there are more things in Heaven and earth than thought of by Horatio or him and that might soon be the end of him. A taut story which has a nice twisted ending, Nephilim reminded me a lot of the indie horror Gabriel, with a tad touch of Tad Williams’ current trilogy. Another shining effort from this collection.

Toejam & Shrapnel by Nickolas Sharps – What can I say about this story, simply other than this story was best in terms of fun and subversion of urban fantasy tropes. Beginning with a quirky title, the author neatly lays down a clich├ęd story about a writer named Cathan Keene who is trying to write his new mystery while being in a locked room of sorts. Pretty soon he finds out that things are going south at a rate he can’t manage and thus he finds himself in the company of our titular characters. What happens next is something that you will have to find out yourself as after finishing this story, I proclaimed myself (with the blessings of the author) as the first T & S fan. A highly enjoyable story that mixes fun, intrigue, death & Middle eastern mythology in a combination that is almost unheard of. Very highly recommended and possibly one of the top three stories in this collection.

Green Grow the Rashes by William Meikle – This was a strange story and perhaps one that I didn't quite understand. The story opens up with a person who via his monologue explains certain things about the environment and the plot happenings. A story that will perhaps endear itself to certain readers who enjoy an understated approach.

Under the Dragon Moon by Jonathan Pine – This was a story that felt as if it was a chapter of a larger book or at least part of a series of shorts or novellas. Kyle is a person who has lost his love and soon finds that there might be people who had a hand in it. They however don’t know what they might be facing. Another short that has a tense ending and leaves the reader wanting to know more about what has happened previously & also what could happen.

Gold Dust Woman by Kenny SowardGold dust Woman is a story that takes several different elements and genres to combine itself into an urban fantasy beast, which is one of a kind. Celix is a drug addict who is running away from troubles that cant be contained. Unfortunately for her, her pursuers have sent someone that could be a friend. Whom does she trust and can she still find the power within her to say no and survive. A story that ends on a totally unpredictable note, Kenny Soward showcases some deft skills with this one.

Wizard’s Run by Joshua S. Hill Wizard’s Run is a story that leaks the plot with its title. The eponymous wizard of the story is shown to be running through the streets of Melbourne (Australia) while being pursued by an unknown number of assailants. Those who are familiar with the city might very well enjoy the author’s descriptions and factoids about the city which are liberally sprinkled throughout. The ending is a quick one and with a nice hook left for sequel stories to follow.

Chains of Gray by Betsy DornbuschChains of Grey is a story set in recent times but occurs in an unnamed place. Suriel is the protagonist of the story and also a Grigori, despised by the angels for his love of mankind. However recent angel deaths have forced Gabriel to seek his aid and when Suriel discovers who is behind all of it, he will be forced to make a tough decision. Another story featuring angels but one that showcases their internecine struggles. Betsy Dornbusch keeps the story moving at a rapid pace but doesn't quite manage to make it entirely unpredictable.

Bloody Red Sun of Fantastic LA by Jake Elliot – This story had an intriguing title and it featured angels and demons particularly focusing on Mikael and Ba’al. The author does a terrific job in describing a confrontation between the two aforementioned entities in the streets of Los Angeles and over it. However after finishing it, I couldn't really say that it had the narrative strength of the its predecessors nor did it offer anything different from the other stories featuring angels.

Queen’s Blood by Lincoln Crisler Queen’s Blood was a story that features a guy called Max who retrieves things for people who can’t be helped by the police. In his most recent case, he’s trying to recover a young girl who’s been kidnapped and also figure out who is behind it all. A quirky story that features a very likable protagonist with a fascinating condition, Queen’s Blood will easily leave you wanting more of Max.

Beneath a Scalding Moon by Jeff Salyards – This was another surprise for me, I didn't know what to expect from Jeff Salyards and he further compounded it by having a story that mixes Desperate Housewives with True Blood. Cassie is the protagonist of the story that has a cavalier attitude towards life and her sexual partners. Going gung-ho she discovers that perhaps all is not well with her, but the optimist that she is, she never lets it get in the way of her next lay. A very weird story that will have a few chuckling and others shaking their heads, but the audacity of the author in presenting this story can’t be questioned. A very different UF story that shows the scope of this collection.

Separation Anxiety by J.M. MartinSeparation Anxiety was a surprising story that incorporates several mythologies and also showcases a post-apocalyptic theme smartly. To reveal more about the story is spoilery so I would leave it for the reader to discover its charm. An interesting story mix that has an equally interesting plot to go with it.

Blessing and Damnation by Wilson Geiger – A story about what happens when a demon decides to break all accord and nomenclature that has been set since the heavenly war. Norshael is the other demon chosen to stop the previous one and his task has him co-opting a human body whose owner might be more than what he thought. A surprisingly brisk story which leaves the reader asking for more of Norshael.

Jesse Shimmer Goes to Hell by Lucy A. SnyderLucy Snyder brings up the last story in this intrepid collection and she focuses on her debut series character Jesse Shimmer. Jesse is forced to look for a person named Miko however Miko might not entirely amiable to being found. The story has a breakneck pace and ends on a surprising note. Quite a strong finish to this collection.

CONCLUSION: Tim and Tyson have compiled quite an eclectic collection of stories, they encompass the vast swath in the urban fantasy sub-genre and some push the line even further. I happen to be a fan of urban fantasy and therefore this collection was a gem in that regard. Perhaps a tad extra focus was provided on angels but each story highlighted a new aspect dealing with angels and so my complaints were muted.

Some of the stories like those by Zachary Jernigan, Teresa Frohock, Nick Sharps and Adam Millard were absolutely delightful and in my view the ones I enjoyed the most. While those by Ryan Lawler, Abhinav Jain, TPS Sweeney, Jeff Salyards, Lincoln Crisler showcased the innovative twists and plots as devised by the authors. All in all this is a must have and must read for any UF fan and those lamenting the pitfalls seen in this genre.


Bryce L. said...

Well done, Mihir, and thanks for reviewing each individually. I usually do that but I was lazy this time. :)

Bibliotropic said...

I agree with Bryce; thanks for looking at each story individually, which is something I didn't do in my review of the collection.

Definitely loved the book, though. I wish I could find more urban fantasy the way these people write it, because then I'd read more urban fantasy! And I think this is one of the best anthologies that I've read in recent years, too, which is quite an achievement considering I usually find anthologies to be very hit-or-miss with their contents.

The Reader said...

Thanks Bryce,

I was still a bit laxy as this review was long delayed. I kinda took this from your reviews especially the Fading Light one :)

Thanks Ria,

Its quite hard to find the type of UF found in this antho and especially with almost all UF being the same. It can be indeed tiring.

On that note, forgive me for asking this (especially if you have already told me) but have you read the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews?


Bryce L. said...

Yes, I did something worth copying!

Bibliotropic said...

I haven't, but if you're recommending it I'll definitely take a look and see what I think.

The Reader said...

Cool, thanks Ria. That is a series which I can't recommend enough to SFF readers.


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