Monday, September 13, 2010

Breach the Hull edited by Mike McPhail

NOTE: Breach the Hull was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Dark Quest Books.

Military science fiction is a passion of mine. However, it seems I am getting it more and more from Warhammer 40,000, and not from much else. That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with Warhammer 40,000 (far from it!), just that I would like to see some new settings and new themes in my military SF. So, with that in mind, I picked up a copy of Breach the Hull, the first book in Dark Quest Books’ military science fiction anthology series, Defending the Future.

What I found was a bit hit-or-miss. While I think calling “Cryptic” by Jack McDevitt military science fiction is a bit of a stretch, it slammed a home run to start the proceedings, with a story of wonderful science fiction. It, along with other strong contributions such as Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s “In the Dying Light,” packed into the story a wallop of suspense and excitement, not just at the gunfights and violence, but weaving a strong story through the action. The stories worked on their own, not just as a vehicle for the action associated with the genre.

However, other stories seemed to not hit those high notes quite as well, such as editor Mike McPhail’s “Wayward Child,” which felt a bit flat throughout, lacking that engaging sense of suspense that made some of the other stories such winners. I found myself not finishing all of the stories, as the anthology lost momentum, instead skipping around a bit.

Not all is lost, however, with appearances by the brilliant Jack Campbell (under his real name, John G. Hemry), and the ever-popular Patrick Thomas, who has an entry into his 142nd Starborne series. All-in-all, this volume fills out well, not using many big names, but hitting a number of authors with a lot of work out from smaller publishers, and searching for the new breed of story to be found, not in the big publishers, but in the hands of authors and fans of the genre.

This isn’t necessarily the best anthology you will read, but in a subgenre dominated by a few big names, it is nice to see a fresh take at the stories that made the genre exciting to read. And even if they don’t all succeed, they serve as a platform to keep the genre alive.

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