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The Stories in Between: A Between Books Anthology Paperback – January 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
This anthology of 16 speculative stories celebrates the 30th birthday of Delaware independent bookstore Between Books. Though theoretically unthemed, the tales tend to be on the darker side. Superb selections include Jonathan Maberry's Dr. Nine, which delves into the depraved side of human nature; the birth of a new legend in Lawrence M. Schoen's The Fisherman and the Wrestler; Catherynne M. Valente's philosophical Proverbs of Hell; and Gregory Frost's Swift Decline, a tale of ritual and madness. Lawrence C. Connolly's Beneath Between and Mike McPhail's Beyond Imagine even use the bookstore as a setting. Other stories of lesser quality by relative unknowns are placed alongside these standouts, giving the whole work an uneven feel and leaving readers to sift through sand for the gems. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1979 Greg Schauer opened Between Books, an unassuming little bookstore in Claymont, Delaware, dedicated to stocking speculative fiction, graphic novels, and every variety of alternative literature. After 30 years enjoying the store’s inspiring bounty, its patrons give Schauer something in return with this celebratory volume of mostly sf, fantasy, and slipstream fiction. The stellar lineup of authors includes Bram Stoker Award winners John Passarella and Jonathan Maberry, popular fantasists Maria Snyder and Patrick Thomas, and best-selling novelist Jonathan Carroll. On a mythic tropical island twin brothers battle for the role of supreme leader even after both are killed. A private detective tracks a missing woman to a West Virginia ghost town harboring aliens. In one story actually featuring Between Books, a failed writer discovers books he apparently published in an alternate universe. The unifying glue of all the stories belonging to the same genre is absent, producing a feeling of unevenness; still, most of the tales are entertaining enough to be fitting tributes to one of the East Coast’s most beloved independent bookstores. --Carl Hays
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Below I list each title with a small synopsis and rating. Remember that the ratings and my thoughts are MY opinions. Mine only. What I love, you may hate, and vice versa. One thing is for sure; every one of these authors and illustrators are beyond talented.
The Wrestler & The Spear Fisher by Lawrence M. Schoen
Two warriors, once-twin brothers, have been reborn to fight for the right of succession. Only one may lead their people. The spirits of Aniwa, protectors of the people, devise a way to choose.
**** Four Stars! This story is thirteen pages in length. It is well written and reads much like a fable.
Beneath Between by Lawrence C. Connolly
***** Five Stars! Everyone has read a story or watched a show about ... "not-quite parallel worlds where the roads not taken were taken ...." However, after reading this story I was left with my own series of "What If" thoughts.
Dr. Time by Maria V. Snyder
Dr. Gaye Clemmer is working on a Relocater Device. Another scientist mockingly assures her that within a month she will be gone and his lab area would expand to include her space. But then Gaye begins getting messages from her future self.
***** Five Stars! This story assured me that should I ever build a machine that can transport matter through time, I am never to communicate with my past self. An intriguing story with an ending that surprised me. Terrific!
Squeeze Me by Don Bethman
*** Three Stars! This very brief comic is a whopping two pages long. The only readable words are found in the last panel. Yet the meaning of the story comes across with no problem.
Swift Decline by Gregory Frost
A husband hires an investigator to locate this run-away wife. The trail leads to a small, seemingly deserted, mining town where all the people sit silently in a dim bar. As strange as the investigator thought things were, nothing could have prepared him for what he sees in the rectory or for what came afterward.
**** Four Stars! A blending of science-fiction and mystery creates a story with the flavor of an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Short Fuse by Patrick Thomas
John Murphy is a bartender with some pretty interesting friends in law enforcement. When he enters a lingerie shop, he finds a woman with a bomb strapped to herself. Murphy decides he has to help defuse the situation.
*** Three Stars! A pretty good story with an ironic twist.
Blood Alone by John Passarella
It has been fifteen months since the last attack triggered by Wither's dying curse, but Wendy Ward and her friends are still alert. Good thing, because the latest supernatural threat is cunning and able to control the minds of others. It gets worse when one of Wendy's friends becomes unwillingly enthralled and a previously dormant seed of evil within her mind begins to grow.
***** Five Stars! This author is a master when it comes to writing a story soaked in dark nuances. At forty-one pages in length, it is the longest story within this anthology (though one other does come a close second). For those who are following the Wendy vs Wither's Curse battles, I suggest you do not miss this episode. I would even say that this one is vital. Outstanding!
Beyond Imagine by Mike McPhail
As Ingram struggles to full awareness, he realizes his squad is liberating him from a sealed capsule. Morgan informs him that she had been the first free of her unknown-type of cell and immediately began helping the rest of the squad out of their individual imprisonments. The squad soon finds themselves under attack.
***** Five Stars! This is one of the best short military science-fiction stories I have ever read. I could not be more impressed. In fact, I am making a note to check for more of McPhail's stories. The author is also a game designer. Since I have recently grown bored with "World of Warcraft", perhaps I can find a new online game as well.
Appetite by Jonathan McGoran
He had made the perfect diet pill, Napeteine. It basically turned off your digestive tracts, so you could eat whatever you wanted. No matter how much a person ate, the fat would disappear and the muscles would be enhanced. Surely something this easy must have at least a few side effects.
**** Four Stars! My way of thinking must be as royally warped as McGoran's, because this story mimics a nightmare I had once as a teen. I have never forgotten the dream of long ago and now I am sure that I never will.
Doctor Nine by Jonathan Maberry
Those with darkest hearts and blackest souls dream of the being known as Doctor Nine. So when one little girl decides to watch her twin die beautifully, Doctor Nine is invited to the party.
*** Three Stars! This is the author's version of taking a small peek into an insane girl's mind. I do not know if I would call it disturbing or interesting. I believe readers must decide that for themselves.
My Grandfather Was Adolf Hitler's Roommate by Henry Long
** Two Stars! This is the second longest story within this anthology. It is in two sections and reads like a memoir. The first section is Henry's grandfather and young Hitler. It follows how the two met and, eventually, parted ways. The second section is Henry's uncle. It involves aliens and conspiracy theories.
Janey In Amber by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Janey leaves her home and job in the city whenever her mother has an episode. Her mother's Dementia is hard on Janey's emotions, but she never fails to care for her mother. Of course, Janey has Jack to help her through it all. But does Jack offer the type of support a husband is supposed to?
**** Four Stars! I figured out what was really going on pretty early; however, this is still an interesting read with a twist.
Vedran by Jonathan Carroll
When William's wife died he could not get past his mourning. To keep from hitting hard despair, William got on a bus taking other senior citizens out for the day. On that bus William sat down next to another gentleman who had recently lost his wife. The other man had loved his wife too, but was happy. William wanted to know how.
**** Four Stars! This story was not only sweet, but made me stop and seriously think about my husband. I hope that I recall what William learned. Very moving and memorable.
The Devil You Don't by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
After a hard and long debriefing about her actions on the Groom Experimental Complex, Private Kat Alexander and the rest of the Daire's Devils are sent on a covert assignment for some fact finding and to deal with possible space pirates.
**** Four Stars! This hard-core soldier has a major kick-butt attitude. She may be a private now, but her future looks bright. I see a lot of potential with Kat and the team. Here's hoping for more.
The Dungeon Out Of Time by Walter Ciechanowski
When John Chandler's family heads to the beach for a week, the boy ends up in a toy shop for new "Dangerous Dungeons" board game material. He ends up with more than he expects. A lot more!
**** Four Stars! Anyone who has ever played a D&D board game will especially enjoy this bit of drama. Creepy!
The Wonderous Boundless Thought by C J Henderson
In the future, where the brain has been mapped, charted, and everyone uses the entire organ, people are at peace. Anything can be downloaded directly into one's brain. They have everything they could possibly want. Or do they?
**** Four Stars! This author must have a very philosophical mind set. I found the story to be intriguing and the reactions of those having the discussion left me a tad unnerved in the end.
Proverbs of Hell by Catherynne M. Valente
The brothers tend the small garden within their personal Hades. Each night a female Imp visits to devour their organs and tell a tale.
*** Three Stars! This one made me scratch my head in confusion for awhile. At the ending, I was not sure that I understood what the author was trying to get across, so I reread it. I have decided this story is much like museum pieces of art work. It is whatever you make of it.
The Legacy of Between Books by Steve Ressel
***** Five stars! This is a four page comic where Greg Schauer, an editor of this anthology and the owner of "Between Books", is poked fun at. If you are a nerd, whether you admit it to yourself or not, you will NOT be able to finish this comic without grinning. The fact that you understood and empathized enough to grin or chuckle proves your geekiness.
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.