Top positive review
A Heart-Pounding Anthology Companion to the Extinction Cycle
Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2019
This anthology smartly adds to the lore of EC. It's a thrilling and horrific page-turner, exactly what we want from the Variant apocalypse. For those who can stand all the gore, it comes with it, too.
Brilliantly written by Anthony Melchiorri, another favorite author co-wrote Orbs IV with Smith, shows the terrible strain and sacrifice of Marines and Navy is under--and provides a horrific bridge to later Extinction Cycle novels with clever new variant mutations and evolving monstrous tactics. Melchiorri continues Smith's skill writing military thrillers and action and makes every member of the squad, no matter how minor, someone we care about. It is the perfect re-entry into the Cycle, and I thoroughly enjoyed having characters like Davis and Garcia explored further. (I'll always take more Lt. Davis, one of my favorites from the series, no matter how much of an appearance she makes!)
The Fall of Fort Bragg
Perhaps one of my most anticipated stories to read was what happens to Big Horn (a Cycle main character) and his family before his return to Fort Bragg. The writing is on the wall for this one, but Rachel Aukes cleverly takes this story and makes the theme of sacrifice resound even louder as Horn's wife, Sheila, seeks to protect their daughters at their home on the base. It's unique in that the focus is on military families, not the soldiers at first, and we see what the families endure sheltering in place and with little actual information, but terrifying signs of the apocalypse growing near. It also has some most welcome cast surprises. It was heart-pounding, and as a parent, terrifying to consider. Perfect evening reading.
One of the most cleverly written and fascinating additions took me by surprise. Russell Blake serves up a prelude to the apocalypse as a murder mystery set decades in the past. It ties well with another companion novel, Red Line! I was surprised and also applaud his unflinching look at the human and drug trafficking, as well as prostitution and racism, and the desperation of people in poverty trying to survive day-to-day before the apocalypse. The mystery is cleverly written, even if you've already read the Cycle, and its buddy-cup dynamic plays out fun. I wish we could have more of these two detectives!
The Bone Collector
Jeff Olah gives us a fascinating character--an athlete dealing with severe debilitating concussions--and how he survives the apocalypse. There's great foreshadowing and unexpected explanations to minor characters only seen in the Cycle's background that were hard to forget. If you're looking for Variant versus Variant, this is the story you want. The action is intense and the insight into the mutated "society" of monsters is intriguing. The nods to some themes explored by Fear the Walking Dead were interesting.
Perhaps the oddest addition to the anthology, this shorter work explores...well...the apocalypse with a bit of unexpected fun. It's weird. At times I wasn't sure if I was reading "Extinction: Dr. Who" or "V-Nation"! To Mark Tufo's credit, that made this trippy horror-comedy unexpectedly funny and a good release from the tense stories that come before it, and the gripping finale of Fort Bragg to follow. Perfectly placed, Trippin' gives a nice summary of a sequence in the first book, which makes it even more of the perfectly weird addition to this great collection.
All in all, this is a perfect anthology of former Extinction Cycle World stories, compiled for reading at night with most of the lights off. For fans of the Cycle like me, this brought a lot of expanded lore that added some welcome fun, while delivering on the terror, thrills, and deep character work we expect from EC. Well done and well edited anthology! Happy reading!