Publisher: Auspicious Apparatus Press and Hip Phoenix
Publication Date: November 20, 2015
Edition: Paperback, 401 pages
Genre: Anthology, Apocalypse, Post-Apocalyptic, Animal, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Tails of emotions
Nobility. Self-Sacrifice. Unconditional Love.
These are the qualities of the heroic animals in this collection.
The Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey in 14 amazing tales by today’s most talented independent authors. Seven stories set in all-new dystopian landscapes. Seven stories set in the bestselling post-apocalyptic worlds of David Adams’s Symphony of War, Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, Nick Cole’s Wasteland Saga, Hank Garner’s Weston Files, E.E. Giorgi’s Mayake Chronicles, Deirdre Gould’s After the Cure, and Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers.
When the world ends, the humans who survive will learn an old lesson anew—that friendship with animals can make the difference between a lonely death among the debris and a life well lived, with hope for the future.
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the editor in exchange for my honest opinion and review.
The Water Finder’s Shadow by David Bruns – 3/5 Rating
- Karma’s a bitch.
Polluk is a Finder in a world where water seems to be a scarce resource. A Finders job is to use their Gift to seek out new water holes in each clan that they visit. This event is regarded as a ceremony every time a Finder shows up – but being a Finder has its drawbacks. Once a Finder loses their Gift, they are put in shackles and sent into slavery. That is where Polluk finds himself now. However, Polluk also has his dog, Shadow, who appears to have a Gift of his own, and for the past twenty years, while Polluk’s Gift has been slowly fading, he has been using Shadow to help find water, and keep them both alive. Sadly, Shadow is at an old age, and near death; Polluk has all but lost his Gift; and there is a new young Finder that just walked into his clan.
Good story and loved the idea of Finders in this post-apocalyptic world – I just wish we had a little more world-building. I didn’t even realize it was some sort of post-apocalyptic world until after I read the story and then read the synopsis. Also, the emotion for the Polluk’s relationship with Shadow was there, but it was spelt out more than it was felt. Still, like I said, good story.
When You Open the Cages for Those Who Can’t (a Breakers short story) by Edward W. Robertson – 2.5/5 Rating
- Sweet – but you’ve probably read this one before.
Raina is a young girl, whose mom works at an animal hospital where there are a number of pets – Raina’s favorites are the dogs. Trying to skip school, Raina goes to the hospital where she notices that her Mom has a cough. Soon her father has a cough too, but Raina is still okay. Eventually they go to the hospital where there is a line down the road for people to get in – all with the cough. Days later her parents die and Raina is forced to survive on her own. She believes she should head East, but then remembers the Dogs at the hospital, and that someone has to take care of them.
There is nothing wrong with tropes – everything is a trope nowadays – but it matters whether or not it feels like one and feels cliché… which this one does. Prose were basic, and many sentences left me wondering what the point of even having them in there was… Elaborate more or take the sentence out. Raina felt like a generic girl, and same of all the characters – due to these prose and generic dialog.
Protector by Stefan Bolz – 3/5 Rating
- Packed full of potential.
Two cub wolves and their mother are fighting a snow storm. Sadly, one cub couldn’t keep up and is left behind. While searching for food and water, this cub steps in a human trap and yelps in pain. That sound attracts two humans – the brothers Manny and Jock. Manny decided to free the wolf, despite the need for food, and take him to a safe location. Manny and Jock then bring the wolf food daily, and stay to play with it. They did this everyday until one day they stopped coming… When the wolf went to search their camp, he discover the smell of burnt wood and flesh… and Jock dead.
We get two POVs: the wolf’s and the boy’s. Bolz does a good job with wolf’s perspective, and being able to see what the wolf is thinking and feeling was crucial to the emotion of the story. Bolz also has a couple good prose in here too, that went I read them made me say, “Wow!”. And speaking of potential, this whole story had it! The plot, the characters, the dialog – if Bolz put in a little more depth and development into those area, this would have been an amazing story. I’m totally going to check out some of Bloz newer works to see if his writing has progressed.
The Poetry of Santiago by Jennifer Elis – 4/5 Rating
- A cat and his master.
Santiago is an old cat – over 14 years old. He used to be a street cat, then became a house cat, went back to being a street cat, and is now, what he likes to call, a deck cat. He hang out on the deck of a man who adopted him several year before by giving him cream in a bowl as repayment for Santiago killing mice in his shop in the night. The two have bonded over the years since, and he is now the old cat and the man is now an old man. Upon waking up one morning, Santiago smells something in the air and notices all the animals have left the area. He realizes what is wrong and decides that he must warn the old man and do whatever his old bones can to save him.
Santiago was an amazingly lovable
catcharacter. The story is told from a 3rd person POV focusing on Santiago, and Elis did a great job at creating Santiago’s voice. Santiago acts and thinks how you would expect a cat to (thinking the cream is a reward for killing mice, and knocking over things to warn for danger). But it didn’t feel like any cat; it felt like Santiago. He was born and raised as a cat of the streets, and while he is kind of in retirement now, his street roots still show! Must also say that the bond between the old and they cat was felt very much.
Demon and Emily (a SSymphony of War short story) by David Adams – 4/5 rating
- Demon: the good dog.
Demon is good boy. He knows this because Emily told him so. Emily, 13 years old, is trying to get him into the car with Emily-mother and Emily-father, but Demon does not want to. He doesn’t want to have to go tothe vet or anywhere. They aren’t going to the vet though. As the family is driving away, they hit a major traffic jam, and watch as a tank rolls over cars that refused to get out of the way. Further down the road, Demon starts barking because he can smell something. He doesn’t know what it is, until a giant bug comes and knocks their car off the road. Demon wakes up to find Emily-mother and Emily-father dead, but Emily still alive – and the giant bug is attacking the car.
Back-to-back great stories, with excellent use of the animal’s voice. In this story though, it is told through Demons first-person POV, and Adams nailed it. I think of cats as the sly, smart ones, while dog are more short, abbreviated, literal animals – Squirrel! 😄 – and it felt like it was told from a dog. He had a limit knowledge of the events that were going on, the technology that the humans has use of, and what the exact intention were of some people (like Emily trying to get him into the car to protect him, or Demon mistaking people actions as dangerous when they were trying to protect Emily).
This a short story from another book, Symphony of War, but it reads fine alone. The narrator is a dog, so you both have the same amount of knowledge going on, and if the tech and giant bugs are any indication as to what Symphony of War is about, I’d give that one a read.
Keena’s Lament (a Weston Files short story) by Hank Garner – 3/5 Rating
- A retelling of Noah’s Ark – from a different perspective
The Shining One were the ones who had fallen from Heaven, where they once lived with the Creator. The Creator then put Humans on Earth, where the Shining Ones then laid with Humans to create the Watchers. The Shining Ones were banished from Earth, but The Watchers, being born there, were allowed to stay… But that didn’t stop the Creator from trying to wash them away. Some Watchers took the Builders warning for real, other could care less, and one in particular tried to survive it with a lone puppy.
The narrator is this Watcher in question, and the story starts off with him talking to us about who we are as humans, and where and what he is (should also mention I enjoyed the Watcher’s philosophical-like voice). Really cool mythology here. It is evident quickly that is a Noah Ark retelling, but it is told from the perspective of this Watcher as he is with his dog, Keena. The Ark is really in the background to the story, with focus being on the Watcher, as his relationship builds up with Kenna, and what it is to love something else.
Another story that takes place in another novel, but you don’t need to have read Weston Files. I took this a kind of prequel/origin story, for the set up of that novel.
Tomorrow Found (a Wasteland Saga short story) by Nick Cole – 3.5/5 Rating
- The man’s quest of searching for the past.
The man has been searching alone for the past two years. Searching for the past. He has been so alone, that he has not spoken for the past two years. He has come in contact with other people, and they have offered him a place to stay with them but he has always declined – partly because he has forgotten to talk. One night, when the man finally feels like giving up, and tossing his life over the edge, he hears a whimper in the night, and sees something stumbling toward him. It is a…. puppy?. Yes. And he will name him “Dog”. The man decides that Dog will help him in his search for the past.
One thing that Cole has excelled more than other authors so far, is in build a post-apocalyptic world. It genuinely felt like this world just went through some type of cataclysmic event. Cole actually takes the time to describe the world – the scenery, environment, people – and it made a huge difference in my enjoyment. The best part was what the “past” ends up being 😉
This is from Cole’s Wasteland Saga, which takes place in the Apocalypse Weird universe, which is a universe that a number of authors write in – which means this needs no prior knowledge to read or enjoy the story.
Pet Shop (an After the Cure short story) by Deirdre Gould – 4/5 Rating
- Don’t mess with Surly Shirley the parrot.
Surly Shirley is a mall pet shop parrot. The zombie apocalypse has happened and, not surprisingly, the pet shop had been forgotten. Shirley had been debating to break out when three men break into the store looking for supplies – they are look for pliers . Why pliers? So they can pull the teeth and nails off of the Infected, and will become safe and can sell them into
slaverywork. Even though Shirley hates everybody, she gets a soft spot for Joe. Joe sees them still as humans because there is a cure to change them back to humans. Gary tells Joe to stop his foolish dreaming, but when Joe breaks off to get a soldier, Gary’s intentions become revealed: Gray sees the zombies as money and cattle to sell for work. Now Shirley feels she must do everything she can to protect Joe.
As of right now, this is my favorite story. Great character development and arc of both Surly Shirley and Joe, and Gould did an amazing job at creating them to be sympathetic. Not only do we get these great characters, but we also get a look at how the world is dealing with this apocalypse, and learn what type of apocalypse it is too. Plus, unlike other stories so far, we get that tension from a group of characters being stuck together that I tend to expect from apocalypse stories. People together, trying to survive – personalities and opinions are going to clash. This is first story so far, that I feel was completely developed, and came as a full package.
Don’t need prior knowledge of After the Cure to read this, but apparently Joe is a character in the series. So, from what I can guess, this story provides an origin to his injury? Because book 3 of After the Cure series explains if/how Joe recovered from his injuries.
Edit: After read the rest of the stories, this one is still my favorite in the anthology 🙂
Kael Takes Wing (a Mayake Chronicles short story) by E.E. Giorgi – 4/5 Rating
- Touching story about learning to fly.
Kael is a baby falcon, still a chick, who sits in his nest all day watching the condors fly, dreaming of joining them in the sky. The dream may not come true, and his mother has to raise him alone. She sacrifices her heath for his, and one morning fails to returns. Kael now has to search for food on his own, and as he was going for a lizard on the side of his nest, he falls… He is picked up by two humans and then passes out again. When he awakes he can suddenly smell everything, and now understands what the humans are saying. He finds out that the two humans who picked him up are a boy and a father, but that also sitting on the side is a girl. She is just like Kael; while he cannot fly, she cannot walk.
Giorgi has sweet and simple prose that matched the atmosphere of the story and Kael’s voice (who is our narrator). The story is very touching from the begging with the mother sacrificing herself for Kael, and with Kale’s dream of flying – of doing it for his mother. You should also be able to guess that something is going to happen between the sister who cannot walk and Kael who cannot fly. There is some brief sci-fi here too. Kael has a chip that let him smell and hear, brother has eyes, mother has an arm, father has wires in his ears, and the sister… has not what you would expect.
Those of you who have read the Mayake Chronicles before, should recognize the Kael, and this short story is his back story.
The Bear’s Child by Harlow C. Fallon – 3/5 Rating
- The price of loneliness.
Ferals live outside of the city Icarus, which was built by Icarus himself for himself. The Feral came to be by men who thought themselves Gods of science and weather; the Feral were their mistakes. Now, they are banished from Icarus, and hunted by Incarian hunters and Flamers. Anya is a Feral. While Ferals live together in groups, she is secluded from the rest, only occasionally visiting the clan of her brother and father. Neither of them approve of the way Anya live – her brother because she is abandons their dying father, and her father because she is not acting like a women. After Anya find a dead Incarian hunter, she goes to tell her father’s clan, and is rewarded with frustration so she storms off again. After she leaves, Flamers come in and destroy and kill her clan. A Flamer comes after her and she has to escape the snow storm that is coming. She decides to duck into a cave, where she meets a bear… a bear that can talk to her.
The world Fallon created for this story is pretty cool. Men of science essentially becoming Gods because they can now create the perfect humans and weather (only inside Icarus) and are now trying to erase the Ferals, their failed first attempt. I wished we had more of that focused on the in the story; I’d love a novel where it was about the Ferals trying to break into Icarus. This story though, is about Anya, and the pain and regret she suffers from secluding herself from her family. The bear she meets has lost her cub to the Incarian hunters too, and from talking to the bear, Anya learns the mistakes she made. The talking bear was strange… but because Anya is “sick” – a result of he being a Feral and mistake – it’s hard to tell if bear was there or Anya was going crazy.
Wings of Paradise by Todd Barselow – 3.5/5 – Rating
- Simple story, but interesting world.
A plague has struck mankind; an event that came to be known as the Collapse. After the Collapse, the role of pets and humans switched, with animals of all kinds, reestablishing themselves as the dominant species of Earth, and no longer under the rule of humans. As animals reclaimed the planet for themselves, new alliances between different animals were formed. One such alliance was between the Bats of Paradise and Birds of Paradise. These Bats and Budgerigars, formed a council, Wings of Paradise (made up for two elders and one youngling from each group), to protect themselves from common enemies – such as cats, dogs, and rats. Birds scout the day; Bats the night. On a day mission, Vic, the bird youngling, discover a group of humans, and brings this information back to the Elders. The Elders become worried and their immediate decision is to kill the humans off. Vic and Kal, the Bat youngling, and some select others, are not of the same mindset and have to try to convince the Elder not to kills to humans – aka. not to act like humans.
The First two chapters start off awesome giving a brief history of what happened in the world with the Collapse, and then explaining how animals had adapted and created alliances in this new world, and what the Wings of Paradise is about. Then we go and meet Vic where he sees the humans… It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see what will happen, how it will end, and what the lesson will be – but it was still a good read. Good writing and good dialog. Wished this had been a little longer. I believe there was a lot of room left where more dialog and tension could have added between the younglings and elders of the council.
Ghost Light by Steven Savile – 4/5 Rating
- Nuclear blast of the “feels”.
Russia sent off a nuclear weapon, which in turn caused a chain reaction of other nations to launch theirs as well, leading the world to become a nuclear wasteland. Some were lucky though and escaped it. One such group were passengers of Flight BA949, which was in the air when the first bomb went off in London, and landed in Scotland. One man though still dreams of returning home, to his wife and dog, and with a group of four others – his own Grail Knight – they set out to do this. They are not along on this trip though. Ever since the landing, people have been seeing these ghosts lights… these dogs, or wolves, or something celestial. No one can tell, but one thing is true: to see them, is to know that your end is coming.
This story is a narration from this one man as he recounts the events in the world leading up the Nuclear war, and then his experience as he travels back home. There is a lot of Arthurian lore in the story – as you can tell by him creating his own Grail Knight – but if you don’t know anything about it, you’ll be fine. I loved how the story was told through this man’s eyes, and I read straight through this, glued to the page the whole time, but I kept wondering: what was going on? Why leave the plane? What are theses Ghost Lights? Slowly, but surely, it all started to come together, and I found this to be an emotional and powerful story.
Kirsty’s Song (a Pennsylvania short story) by Michael Bunker – 3/5 Rating
- A man and his dog.
Kristy is sitting outside the store, even though he is inside. Marty tells him that she can come in, but he knows that Kristy only comes in when she working. Right now, she’s on the lookout. He is having a conversation with Marty, and trying to buy some Brighton boxes. As soon as he gets the boxes, he sees Kristy raise her tail and leg; he races to the door, opens it up, and ask Mary where the back entrance is. Either the Transportation or TRACE are on their way, and they need to get out – ASAP.
Normally I save the last paragraph to discuss if/how much knowledge is need for a short story, if it is from another book. Well, you are seeing me start with it here for a reason. It mentions words like “Q”, “Brighton box”, “Transport”, “TRACE”, and “BICE”…. and I had no idea what they were ahead of time. It is easy enough to deduce what these words are by use and context, and Bunker does take the time to explain the importance of each keyword, but it takes away from the momentum. It is needed for people like me, but for fans of the Pennsylvania universe, I’d guess that it may seem like a lot of world-building you already know. That being said, it is a very nice “tail” about the relationship between man and dog.
I don’t know anything about the original Pennsylvania novel, or the fan-fiction, or other stories that take place in the universe – but based off the world-building in this story, I’d check out the original.
Fun Fact: Even though Bunker is the creator of Pennsylvania, this short story is fan fiction, based of another fan fiction of his original novel 😄
Unconditional by Chris Pourteau – 4/5 Rating
- Best story ending of the anthology.
The dog has always loved the Boy – more than the Baby and more than the Dad. They play together, sleep together, eat together, and protect each other. The Boy was the dog’s twin, and the dog loved him. The dog now feels an ache in his heart where the love of his twin’s companionship had been. It happen on the day of the Storm of Teeth; the day the creatures forced his pack to leave their house, and abandon the him.
The story is fairly short, but in those few pages, Pourteau does an excellent job at giving the reader the sense of love and compassion and dedication that the dogs feels for the Boy, and that the Boy feels the exact the same way – the love a young boy feels for his dog, his best friend. These “creatures” that the dog described actually took me a little bit to figure and added a nice bit of horror to the story, for me. And the ending… I thought it was perfect.
Hell of a lot better than I was expecting!
The firs few stories were good (one a tad less than the others), but nothing more than average. However, once I hit the fourth story, The Poetry of Santiago by Jennifer Elis, the stories in the anthology all went up to another level, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of talent that I was reading.
This anthology is from an independent publisher, and the stories are composed of a lot of independent authors – however do not let the word, “independent”, scare you off. For me, with the exception of that one earlier on in teh book, each and every story here kept me invested the whole time. The plots – some of them simple and some of them with few good twists – are all captivating and pack an emotional punch (I mean, animals are in each story). Even though animals in danger is sad, I credit this emotion to the level of writing from the authors that Chris Pourteau was able to track down for this anthology.
As for the stories themselves – no two are same. There are stories ranging from cats and dogs, to parrots and bats; there is fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories; some are straight after a nuclear blast, some are after the zombies have taken over, others lead up to the end of days, while some take place in completely fictional worlds; we get stories from both the humans and the animals POVs; and in some stories animals are the focus, while in others it was a certain (human) character or the plot. There is an excellent variety is stories here, but the one thing they all had in common, was the potential to make the reader cry (you have been warned).
All in all, this was an extremely pleasant read, and I strongly recommend checking this out 🙂
Date Read: 03/24/2016 - 04/03/2016 Review Written: 03/27/2016 - 04/04/2016