From Goodreads: An exciting mix of the fantastic, the wonderful, and the frightening by the talented members of the Derby Scribes writing group. Overall it’s a versatile and multi-faceted anthology, blending the corners of reality with aspects of the fantastical in a refreshing way.
Contains eleven short stories from guest authors Simon Clark, Conrad Williams and Neal James, plus Derby Scribes members Alison J. Hill, Christopher Barker, David Ball, Jennifer Brown, Peter Borg, Richard Farren Barber, Stuart Hughes, and Victoria Charvill. Including an introduction by Alex Davis and artwork by Samantha Enyon.
Anthologies aren’t something I usually read, but my interest was piqued after I perused “In the Spirit of Darwin” by Simon Clark. It’s a highly interesting tale about an 84 year old man, Lloyd Jefferson, who meets Sir Charles Darwin in 2010. It’s written in such a way that the reader, like Lloyd, is a bit confused concerning the presence of Darwin and questions his being—is it a dream, or reality? As the story progresses and the two men discuss reality, evolution of the human mind, of human behavior, race, and even football. While I’m not one to be completely engaged by scientific speak, this was a very interesting story, and the discussion present in the piece was highly engaging. I really enjoyed it, and I think that Clark does a wonderful job bringing the story to a point and it ends perfectly.
“Brylcreem and Pipe Tobacco,” by Stuart Hughes, is a different type of story, dealing with the supernatural as a middle aged woman, Claire, takes her fiancé, Rodney, to a medium in order to obtain her deceased husband’s blessing prior to her marriage. Claire, unable to release the past without Charlie’s blessing, coerces Rodney into accompanying her, but once there, things don’t go as planned as Rodney, a skeptic, soon loses his temper and leaves. Hughes then packs the ending of his story with a twist that will bring a smile to readers’ faces as they realize what has actually happened throughout the story. This is another gem of a story that I really likes.
The third story in the anthology is called “Stump” and is by Victoria Charvill. I really enjoyed this very short story as well. Charvill has a wry sense of humor, and her sarcastic wit makes it such an enjoyable read. Sophie has a dire track record when it comes to pets; her latest one, a guinea pig, is aptly names Stump, as readers will find out when they read this very short story depicting the life of Sophie’s animals.
“Leaving Jessica,” by Jennifer Brown, is another great story in this anthology. Haunted by her past, Hannah, a woman on the run, opens the piece describing her death as Jessica, then changes course and explains how and why it happened. Currently a nanny, Jessica finds she has once again been tracked down by her ex-husband’s henchmen, and must go on the run once more. Having many previous identities, Jessica is sad to, once again, put aside her latest life. This is an intense read and I highly enjoyed it. I would love for this story to be fleshed out even further and, possibly, become a full fledge novel. The potential is definitely there, and I’d love a more detailed story, though the short story is great just as it is.
Richard Farren Barber’s piece, “Last Respects” is a completely different tale, focusing on a group of soldiers fighting in France during what I believe is WWI. This story is a very real, heartbreaking look at the life of soldiers, who give their all in order to serve their country. These young men, some under age, are in the midst of a bloody war, and many of the characters die a terrible death. Unlike the prior stories in this anthology, “Last Respects” is not a light hearted tale, but rather leaves the reader feeling jarred and empty. Bryan, the hero of this short story, charges on through the midst of the gun fire and bombings, carrying a note a fellow soldier gave to him, only to have the story end with a twist that I didn’t see coming, a twist that literally knocked the air out of me. This fictitious story holds much truth concerning the atrocities of war, and I really liked it.
“The Wake-up Call,” by Alison J. Hill, follows Roy Harpur as he sets his car on fire after hitting a woman in the street. Highly drunk and paranoid, Roy begins to lose his sanity as the story unfolds, only to have a rude awakening as the reader realizes what really happened. This was an interesting story and I enjoyed it, especially as realization set in and I grasped the truth of the story.
Conrad Williams write “The Gallery,” a science fiction piece that, in my opinion, was a bit too long. I had a hard time following this story in the beginning (science fiction is hit or miss with me), but in the end I found that this story was actually really good. Though a bit verbose, Williams gives life to this strange dystopian novel in which the outside is dangerous, people must wear hoods, and there are public burnings. Of course, this is a bit violent, but overall it was good; I’m glad I stuck with it and kept reading, as the end is worth it all.
Peter Borg writes “Dave’s Dinosaur,” which is a very short story involving a dinosaur that wreaks havoc on a couple camping. I was under the impression that this story was some sort of hallucination of some sort, but it turns out there really is a dinosaur outside the tent. This was an interesting story, but too short, in my opinion.
In David Ball’s “An Interstellar Taxi Ride,” an ambassador ends up taking a lowly taxi (a flying taxi, no less) to get to his destination and ends up learning more about the taxi and its previous occupants than he ever wanted to know. Originally I wasn’t too interested in this science fiction short, but as the story progressed and the “too good for anyone” ambassador learns more about his ride, I found myself laughing aloud at his circumstances, and cringing at the same time.
“Obsolete,” by Chris Barker, is by far my favorite tale within the anthology. This could easily become a highly intriguing, full fledge novel, and I’m hoping that perhaps Barker will, in fact, toy with the idea of fleshing it out. The story opens with an elderly gentleman gardening and one quickly assesses that this man doesn’t ever leave the house. Originally thought to be a choice, it becomes apparent that his home is rather a jail cell in its own rights. However, he does get out, carrying two flowers, and his reactions to the world around him tell the reader that this man hasn’t been out in a very long time. As the story progresses, Barker adds in some very interesting twists that explain the sentence this elderly man is serving, and it piqued my interest to the very core. Like I said, I’d love to see this one become a full novel. There is so much Barker could do with it; I highly recommend this one!
“The Smell of Fear,” the final story in this anthology, is another favorite of mine. Neal James, the author, has the reader believing they are reading about one thing, while in reality, it is about something completely different, which readers will find as the story concludes. It is very well written, and I enjoyed this aspect of the story immensely, especially as I never saw it coming.
Overall, I really liked this anthology and, as I said in some of the personal reviews of the shorts, some of these would make great novels, while others are perfect just as they are. The Derby Scribes are a very talented group of writers, and I’d be happy to read more by these authors. I’ll have to look into them and see if there are any novels by these authors as well. Four stars.
I received a copy of this anthology from the publisher in exchange for an honest to review.