Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 27, 2016
This is a collection of 19 stories, all focused on some keystone event or structure (hence the “keystone” theme). In her intro, editor Juliana Rew calls it “probably the most eclectic spec. fic collection we’ve ever produced.” On the whole, I think that’s a good thing, but in practice I suspect this means you will find things hit and miss—meaning you’re almost certainly going to find things you love here, and probably some others that miss the boat a little. Such is the measure of eclectic.
Regardless, overall I found it an overall enjoyable collection of stories that reads quickly.
Three stories in particular completely floated my boat.
First was “The White Picket Fence,” by A.P Sessler. This is a beautiful little piece about love and longing and growing up, and wishing for things that you maybe ought not wish for, and yet, you do. To my taste, it’s a Bradbury-esque piece that satisfied every step of the way.
Brandon Crilley’s “Coding Haven” packs into a few thousand words a deeply complex and thought-provoking story about what it means to be alive, to deal with the ramifications of your position, and even how much control can have over your own life. It’s not a simple or “entertaining” little story. Well worth both a first and a second read.
Which brings me to “Hunt Unrelenting,” by Sierra July, which is a magnificently strange piece set in the clouds of Jupiter. In her introductions, Rew calls this a surrealistic effort, and that is true. This means it might take a little work to get into, but that work is well worth it. This story, and Crilley’s feel like the most ambitious pieces in the anthology to me—and Hunt Unrelenting is the most audacious, which is something I loved about it. For my money, short fiction is often about taking chances. July takes a chance here with a story about life and events that are meaningful in such immense fashions to those involved but happen completely outside the realm of the bigger world around them. She swings for the fences here, and for me the ball is still flying. May it not land for some time.
I’m calling it 5 stars, not because every story hit my hot buttons (19 would be a lot of buttons!), but because these three in particular will stick with me.