Reviewed in the United States on June 21, 2014
May The Ferrymen Take You is the second anthology in the Flames shared universe. In this universe, there are some great concepts, including blue Flames that can transport you over great distances across space and time. This can only be accomplished if you travel with a Ferryman, someone who has the necessary abilities to facilitate this transport. See what these eleven tales are and where they transport you to:
WJ Davies's "Threadbare" - We are introduced to a prisoner, Stefano, who's been plotting to escape his prison for over twenty years. How he got to be there, why he wants to leave and what happens next are all mysteries that unfurl and combine into a wonderfully exciting story about an attempted prison break. It all culminated into an appropriate and ironic ending which I thought was very well done.
John Mireau's "Sloane Walks In" - When a thief is stuck in a museum during a heist which led to a double cross, leaving him with no way out. He thinks he's going to get caught until he realizes he's not alone. Someone unusual walks out of the Flames and things are not what they seem, at all. A suspenseful story with a couple of surprise twists as the tension ratchets up.
Mur Lafferty's "A Coward Dies A Median of 960.45 Deaths" - Jessica, a college student and role-playing gamer, is not doing well in her statistics class and her professor calls her a coward. Why this is and why Jessica should care so much lead to much more than she bargained for when playing her RPG that night and beyond. Mysterious and humorous until its gets serious, I kept wondering what would happen next.
Paul Levinson's "The Last Train to Margaretville" - When an artist falls in dire financial straits, he hatches a plan to use the Flames to steal cash from people who owe it to him. What he wants and what he needs sometimes have a way of dovetailing with each other as he finds something he didn't know he was looking for in this fun tale with a very cool, intriguing payoff.
Christopher Morse's "New Assignment" - Artemis believes she is ready to graduate from initiate to Lantern status as part of the Church of Fire and walk through the Flames for the first time. Her teachers believe she is a screw-up and not reaching her full potential. Why they advanced her and what happens when she walks through the flames are hilariously appropriate when you find out what this story holds.
Steve Umstead's "Battlefront" - Alexandra is a debutante on a tour of exotic lands across the galaxy by her Ferryman and is thrust into a war zone without her knowledge or consent. Forced to flee through the flames to the next planet, will this rich girl die or will she find a way to survive and thrive in this war where worlds are prized and fought over? A taut tale of transformation going from a spoiled brat to a soldier whose well being you care about.
Jared Axelrod's "To Whomever May Find This" - Janine strikes up a long distance friendship when a mouse brings her a watch. That mouse, as it turns out, is a Ferryman (Ferrymouse?) and can walk the Fire. Sending the watch back with the mouse, she becomes friends with Ayodelle as they use the mouse as a courier to send notes back and forth. A cute story that just made me smile in its gentle simplicity as two people get to know each other through unusual, and yet, old fashioned communication.
Matthew Iden's "Trial By Fire" - As part of a settlers contingent of New Calvinists, the congregation colonizes a distant planet. Jehanne, born into this strict lifestyle, is raised to be a servant to her faith. They worship the Source but for some reason, Jehanne hears voices coming from it. The tantalizing questions as to whether she can escape the yoke of oppression, discover her destiny and achieve her goals in spite of the ruling hierarchy, drive this dark, gritty tale of one woman's struggle.
JRD Skinner's "The Ride" - A fella named Boomer got drunk and landed in jail, meeting a Ferryman named LaChance. Striking up a friendship, LaChance takes Boomer on a series of mischievous adventures across the universe (and repeatedly get drunk.) Over the course of this planet-hopping journey spanning many years, we discover LaChance's true purpose for all of this, helping Boomer reach an epiphany which has deep emotional resonance. I was sad for LaChance and delighted for Boomer once that purpose was revealed. Skillfully told with lots of fun along the way, with their motivations providing a strong purpose for their actions.
Harry Connolly's "Sterile Oceans" - Rosco works underneath a dome on the bottom of the ocean floor. Him and his boss, Emerald, work to harvest raw materials into polymers. Their new Ferryman Naoma arrives through the Fire to do pick-up of the polymers and drop off supplies and then things get complicated for all three of them. Dark secrets are revealed and secret motivations come to light. Deliciously twisty, creative and unique with an interesting surprise at the end.
John Anealio's "Bottom of the Mine" - A short but moving tale, told in poetry form, of one person's story as how he wants to provide for his family by mining an asteroid, forcing him to be away from them for ten months at a time. His angry lament against the (corrupt?) Ferrymen about the way he's treated as a result of this form the spine of the poem and the ultimate sadness of its outcome.
Overall, the authors featured in this anthology use these concepts freely, exploring a wide range of stories from intimate, brooding tales of personal struggles to adventures where entire worlds are at stake. From the depths of space to the bottom of the ocean, the wide variety of tales presented here will appeal to any reader willing to let the Ferrymen take you into some great stories!