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The Forge: Fire and Ice, by Fantastic Books Publishing: #BookReview.

236 pages

Short Stories/Fantasy/Science Fiction Anthologies

Before you read this, you need to know that one of the 27 stories published in this anthology was written by me.

So, a collection of dark, sometimes very dark, speculative fiction with a touch of black humour sprinkled in. The theme of the anthology is Fire and Ice and it presents some of the stories entered for the contest organised by publisher Fantastic Books Publishing, with a sprinkling of invited contributions from published authors. As is always the case with these anthologies produced by FBP, 10% of proceeds are donated to charity, so you’ll not only be enjoying a damned good read, you’ll be helping one of a number of selected charities.

Fire and ice are, of course, opposites, and it’s this contrast that features in all the stories; in some more so than others.

All the stories are well written and presented. As is always the case with a collection of tales from different authors, there’ll be some you prefer to others, but all readers will find something they can really get their teeth into.

‘Forged’ by Dan Staniforth was the contest winner. It’s a brilliant and disturbing tale or war’s distorted morality and a soldier’s determination to cling to what he sees as duty. In reality, a drug-fuelled nightmare.

‘All the Time in the World’ by JX Plant was placed second in the contest. It’s a complex story, brimming over with imagination, depicting a world both alien and familiar, governed, perhaps, by computers. Startling.

‘A Worm in the Toffee Apple’ by RL Kerrigan won the third prize. A horrific world in which rampant capitalism, class and consumption have eroded all moral sense in favour of expedient pleasure for the ruling elite. See a recognisable future here?

‘Out of Her Mind’ by Danuta Reah is an invited contribution. The words of the writer made manifest by a mind no longer in control, as nightmare replaces domestic disharmony.

‘The Button’ by Tim Gayda was highly commended in the contest. In a world where climate change has tipped over the point of no return, uncontrolled warming strikes humanity ‘protected’ by cryogenics and AI. But how long will such science be able to perform?

‘All the King’s Men’ by Katie Lewis was a selected contest entry. I describe this as a nightmare world, and you’ll need to read it to discover why.

‘Blind Alley’ by Emily Wooton was a selected contest entry. When the State becomes all, escape is the only way. Desperate, bleak, terrifying.

‘By the Grace of the Two Suns’ by Ed Newbold; another selected contest entry. A story of tribalism and prejudice, and the dreadful price of ignorance and superstition raised above reason.

‘The Yellow Bus’ by Helen Parker; selected contest entry. Travel through a secret portal to the pages of a book, but be very careful which story you choose!

‘Damned if You Do…’ by Alan Paine; selected contest entry. Living through Hell. But is it real or is it virtual?

‘Elemental Sacrifice’ by John Hoggard; selected contest entry. A fantasy, dark and dire, with dwarves, swords, magic and ritual sacrifice.

‘Lagoon’ by RL Kerrigan; yes, the 3rd prize winner managed to impress with two tales. Dystopian fiction with a virus infection. A deadly story.

‘Speak Before You Think’ by Kitty Waldron; highly commended entry. Dark humour as an alcoholic desperately tries to battle his addiction but is faced with a capitalist domestic AI home help.

‘Responsibility Discharged (Fired and Iced)’ by CM Angus; selected contest entry. Beware of any deal that seems too good to be true, especially involving a future that may not turn out to be at all what you bargained for.

‘Greed is Good’ by Stuart Aken (that’s me) is an invited contribution. A selfish businessman is forcibly returned to a damaged Earth to be tried for his failure to give a damn about the environment.

‘Fire and Ice’ by Louisa Morillo; selected contest entry. Dark humour. A meal is served, but you may question what you’re eating here.

‘The Mandarin’ by Robin Bilton; selected entry. A terrifying new world in which humanity itself stars as a commodity.

‘Frost Fires’ by Pierre Le Gué; selected entry. A railway story with a difference and a time anomaly.

‘Frozen Fire’ by Rachel Lovat; selected entry. Commercial pressures drive human employees to rape unoccupied planets for their resources but failure means the Company, using embedded AI, has the last word.

‘The Cold Ones’ by Joseph Wheeldon; selected entry. Fire is constantly at war with ice on this alien world where one must ultimately lose.

‘Justice in the Pool’ by Jonathan Edwards; selected entry. A ruined but highly populated Earth devoid of nature and under a system of criminal justice that is as far removed from real justice as imaginable.

‘Lucantha’ by Sue Hoffmann; selected entry. A fantasy/fairy tale of a very dark nature, told as a tale within a tale, and definitely not for the children!

‘The Separation of Fire and Ice’ by Mira Callahan; selected entry. Be careful if you seek perfection; it may turn out to be something entirely different from what you imagine.

‘On the Slope of Survival’ by Lyn McInroy; selected entry. Dark fantasy in the style of folk legend. Well told.

‘The Despoilers’ by Dominic Bell; selected entry. After a wayward asteroid renders Earth into an almost snowball, the survivors battle to keep humanity alive.

‘The Light of Their Lives’ by Boris Glikman; highly commended. A surreal tale layered in analogy that takes the idea of addiction to an extreme and inevitable conclusion.

‘Adolescent Rebellion’ by Ann Bupryn; invited contribution. A mysterious story channelling rebellion and unspecified magic into a parable.

I enjoyed this selection of imaginative speculative dark fiction shorts. I hope you will, too.

Amazon.co.uk buying link.

[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]

6 Responses to “The Forge: Fire and Ice, by Fantastic Books Publishing: #BookReview.”

  1. delphini510

    A strong and clear review of this book, Stuart. I am glad to see your name up
    there as well and wish you and the book well. Although I often keep clear of too
    dark books there are several that take up subjects that interests me. Your book
    entry is one of them.

    Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thank you for your comment, Miriam. I understand your need to filter the dark material; I do it, too. This anthology is definitely dark, but there are some stories that tackle current social ills in a way that’s needed if we’re ever to confront and tackle them. That, to me, is one of the jobs of science fiction writing.
      Enjoy (sic) the read!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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