Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this anthology on the condition that I would write and publish a review. I have also had a short story and a piece of flash fiction published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, but none of my stories appear in the anthology I am reviewing, The Collapsar Directive.
Actually, the anthology’s title is taken from a story written by Adam Bennett, co-founder of Zombie Pirates, called “The Sword and The Damocles,” a tale about two interconnected intergalactic spacecraft. Like many of the short stories in the anthology, I found it to be “okay,” but not particularly remarkable. Of course “Collapsar” was published a few years back, and I know that many of the authors have since honed their writing skills.
Mel Newmin’s “Looking at the Face of God” had a nice twist to it, but I objected to the idea of releasing zoo animals back to the wild, since animals kept in captivity often lose their ability to fend for themselves in an untamed environment. Once the big reveal occurs, the results become interesting, but then science fiction does sometimes have the created confront their creator.
Jon Penfold’s “The Dream Machine” was interesting, and probably one of the better stories I read. However, the climax lacked punch, since forcing the protagonist to view her own dreams didn’t really reveal anything startling about her, only what was obvious. Her ultimate fate brought no satisfaction, making this a story of simple revenge for unintentional consequences to dream therapy. Sort of a let down.
Tony Spencer’s “New Resolutions” was a retread of the old SciFi trope of worlds within worlds, though why the government felt the need to assassinate anyone with that knowledge is beyond me. Yes, keep it secret, but don’t kill the scientist who discovered the fact. Investigate and explore instead.
Nileena Sunil’s “The Off-Switch” had such potential, but ultimately, it was completely predictable. If I had to re-write the ending, I would have had the Off-Switch actually work, but it only failed because either the Dictator didn’t know how to work it, or some silly technical difficulty like she forgot to recharge its batteries. Having the Dictator die, but only a few scientists realizing the machine really could destroy the universe would have retained at least some tension at the story’s end. It would have been interesting if the mother, who is a physicist, was wrong about the machine not working, but her son, in trying to defend her, discovered it does.
Probably the best of the lot in my opinion was “Run” by M.W. Brown. It had a sort of The Twilight Zone feel. A man wakes up in a medical chamber with no memory. The green numeral “15” appears in his lower right field of vision. Slowly, he finds out his name, that he had a serious medical condition and was put in a coma, and that some disaster had befallen the world while he was unconscious. He meets no other people, but upon discovering what had been done to him, he begins to run. Some of the technical aspects of the story could have been improved, but the sheer suspense generated in the tale made it a worthy read.
Other stories of note were “Magenta Sunrise” by Isabella Fox, but I would have actually played out the dialogue rather than have the aliens simply summarize their experiences. I did like the fact that the aliens were totally non-humanoid, and thus considered unintelligent by the humans invading their world. I do feel the astronauts would have done a thorough examination of the planet from orbit, and thus known not to fall into the “Magenta Sunrise” trap.
Alan Zacher’s “A Plague Strikes Taylorville” was interesting in that it presents a mystery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t solve it, except to hint that unseen aliens might be the cause. But why create an infection that is airborne and strikes only those people who are sexually active (including auto-eroticism)?
In spite of what I’ve said above, “The Collapsar Directive” is a fun read. My main criticism, is that the many interesting stories it contains could have been better developed. So many felt incomplete to me.
Oh, the cover is totally cool.