I enjoy short stories for a variety of reasons. I like quick little bites of story which grab my attention and give me a quick payoff. I also enjoy seeing how well authors can include all the necessary bits of a story and wrangle them into a coherent whole in a short length. It’s not an easy task and not every author is adept at it.
Brian Thomas Schmidt has gathered eighteen stories from newer and established authors in his Beyond the Sun anthology, and he did an excellent job selecting these works. It’s not often that I thoroughly enjoy so many of the stories in an anthology.
I original purchased this anthology because I was friends with two of the authors. Brad R. Torgersen created an interesting and hopeful prison planet story with “The Bricks of Cassiopeiae”. The main character, Ladouceur, was very believable and sympathetic, and I enjoyed how the plot was tied up nicely at the end of the story.
On the opposite end of the cheerfulness spectrum is Jaleta Clegg’s sinister “One-Way Ticket to Paradise”, a horticultural cautionary tale where not everything is bright and beautiful on the idyllic planet of Eden. This story made me think of some of the stories of the unknown from authors such as A.E. Van Vogt and James H. Schmitz.
Nancy Fulda drew me into the world of the slythii in “A Soaring Pillar of Brightness”. It caused me to reflect on just how much I actually understand of the world around me, and whether I sometimes try to fix things which aren’t actually broken. “Dust Angels” by Jennifer Brozek also addresses interaction with the unknown and not jumping to conclusions. It was also a very enjoyable tale of life on the frontier of human space and how it might be similar to life on the American frontier of the mid-to-late 1800s.
My least favorite story in the Beyond the Sun anthology is “The Gambrels of the Sky” by Erin Hoffman. The tense used by Hoffman switches between third person omniscient past tense to third person omniscient present tense, which is somewhat strange and messes with the flow of the story. I spent so much time being bothered by this that the story just never really clicked with me.
The final two stories are from established masters of science fiction: “The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV” by Robert Silverberg and “Observation Post” by Mike Resnick. They both use humor to great effect, and they both made a great ending to an excellent collection about those who paved the way in the far future.
Overall, this was a very strong anthology, something which has been more rare lately (or I’m just picking the wrong collections). Thirteen of the eighteen stories I rated at a four or above, and I have never done that before on any other anthology. I highly recommend the Beyond the Sun anthology. It is well worth your time.
List of Stories:
“Introduction” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
“Migration” by Nancy Kress
“The Hanging Judge” by Kristine Kathrine Rusch
“Flipping the Switch” by Jamie Todd Rubin
“The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae” by Brad R. Torgersen
“The Far Side of the Wilderness” by Alex Shvartsman
“Respite” by Autumn Rachel Dryden
“Parker’s Paradise” by Jean Johnson
“Rumspringa” by Jason Sanford
“Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen” by Cat Rambo
“Inner Sphere Blues” by Simon C. Larter
“Dust Angels” by Jennifer Brozek
“Voice of the Martyrs” by Maurice Broaddus
“One Way Ticket” by Jaleta Clegg
“The Gambrels of the Sky” by Erin Hoffman
“Chasing Satellites” by Anthony R. Cardno
“The Soaring Pillar of Brightness” by Nancy Fulda
“The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV” by Robert Silverberg
“Observation Post” by Mike Resnick
Release Date: August 1, 2013 (USA)
ISBNs: 1933846380 (9781933846385)
Publisher: Fairwood Press
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional, mostly social)
Language: 1 (occasional, mostly minor)
Sexuality: 1 (some minor innuendo, some minor references)
Violence: 2 (some fisticuffs, murder, scary descriptions, death)