NOTE: Eight Against Reality was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Panverse Publishing.
Luke Reviews always has its eyes out for good new short story offerings, and a great place to look is among the smaller presses, which seem to take non-novel length fiction far more seriously than the big publishers do. Panverse Publishing made some waves with their first publication, Panverse One, and before the release of Panverse Two, the second in their novella anthology series, Panverse put out a new short fiction anthology, Eight Against Reality. After a very brief introduction from the editor, we dive into the stories.
“The Eminence’s Match” by Juliette Wade: A society grounded in a very distinct caste-system of sorts, this tale of a hard-to-please leader and his desire to control his servants, and the servant who just can’t seem to do things right, ends rather as expected, but getting there was a good journey. I found the plot less interesting than trying to figure out the society in the story, but still a good start to the anthology.
“Kip, Running” by Genevieve Williams: The story of a race through a future Seattle, where you do whatever it takes to be the first to reach the finish line, and worrying about laws is never among your thoughts, Williams’ tale was entertaining, although not as exciting as I had hoped. Perhaps it was a case of misplaced expectations. I thought it would be a story of action and excitement based on the beginning, but I felt it turned more into a melodrama of Kip’s inability to win the girl.
“The Lonely Heart” by Aliette de Bodard: An intriguing tale of China, child prostitution, and the evils that hide out in the open. This story read really smooth, with a flowing prose that worked perfectly for this tale. I had heard many good things about de Bodard’s work, but had yet to experience it, and this was a welcome pleasure.
“The Flying Squids of Zondor” by Doug Sharp: This movie script follows Commandrix Den Dron as she leads her crew to the planet Zondor, populated by sentient squids. I looked forward to pulp-ish adventure, but instead found an awkward, unenjoyable story. The attempts at comedy weren’t funny, the dialogue was stilted, and while it seemed at times to be on purpose, it failed at its attempt to satirize the earlier periods of the genre. The clunker of the volume.
“Spoiling Veena” by Keyan Bowes: A story of designer children in a world where any physical change can be achieved through surgery, where a couple’s daughter decides that she wants to be their son, instead. Well-written, but I’m not sure if I really found the underlining of the story plausible.
“Man’s Best Enemy” by Janice Hardy: One of the best stories of the volume, this one chronicles man’s struggle for survival in a future in which the world has gone to the dogs, to make a bad joke. It isn’t the first story to fill in that setting, and there is one story (“Fit for a Dog” by Howard L. Myers) that I think was slightly more effective than this one, but Hardy’s tale was still a very engaging one, with strong characters and a fun plot. I’ll be looking for more from Hardy.
“Love, Blood, and Octli” by T.L. Morganfield: A tale that worked myth into narrative in a brilliant way (too bad the Mythopoeic Award is only for novels), this story was great in almost every way. Aztec mythology meets a young girl enjoying her childhood, as she is swept up into a tale of gods and a future worth fighting for. Excellent.
“Dancing by Numbers” by Dario Ciriello: A woman learns that she can explore alternate dimensions from the safety of her own head, and starts to lose her own life in the process, in this tale from our editor. This was an engaging take on the alternate dimension story, one that humanized it while still exploring the infinity of possibilities. It wasn’t the best of the collection, but was still a nice way to wrap up the collection.
Eight Against Reality proves to be a strong new collection, featuring four new stories and four reprints, and bodes well for the future of Panverse Publishing. While not all of the stories worked for me, overall they were strong, and had a very large number that were of high-quality. Fans of science fiction and fantasy short stories should check this one out.