A Cosmic Christmas edited by Hank Davis – book review

Cover of "A Cosmic Christmas", an anthology edited by Hank Davis.
Cover of “A Cosmic Christmas”, an anthology edited by Hank Davis.
It’s not often that science fiction, fantasy, horror, and Christmas all combine. Baen Books editor and author Hank Davis collected an amazing set of stories which all either happen at Christmas or have something to do with Christmas in the 2012 anthology A Cosmic Christmas.

Those familiar with Sarah A. Hoyt’s Darkship Thieves series will enjoy “Angels in Flight”, where she shows us a bit about Jarl’s background and some of the experiences which shaped him. Despite what and who he is, he became to me a little more “human” after I read this story.

A number of the stories in A Cosmic Christmas are from authors who have been letting us peek into their minds for over 50 years. Poul Anderson takes us to the far reaches of human starfaring civilization in “The Season of Forgiveness”. As a small group of humans works to establish a trading post on an alien world, one of the youngest of the group teaches both the humans and the aliens how to get along after making a seemingly small (and possibly fatal) choice. I loved the characterization in this simple story.

“On the Hills and Everywhere”, by Manly Wade Wellman (I always think of Little House on the Prairie whenever I see his name), was a little preachy and the oddest story of the bunch but taught a great lesson we would all do well to learn. Lobo, the AI from the mind of Mark L. Van Name, learns to be kind through his observations of a young interstellar immigrant and his family in “Lobo, Actually”. I really enjoyed the thought processes of Lobo as he worked out his course of action. Both of these stories emphasize the potential positive power of strongly-held beliefs.

“Mad Holiday”, by George O. Smith, was my least favorite story in A Cosmic Christmas, but only because there was too much filler for my taste. So much time was spent on frivolous world- and setting-building that it lessened he impact of the real story. Despite that, it was interesting to revisit the future of the past, before revolutions such as computers, the internet, and actual space travel, and rejoice in just how much normal life continued in stories from that era. Even though it is my least favorite of these stories, it is still a very interesting read.

Larry Correia gives us a little more history on Jake Sullivan, one of the protagonists from his Grimnoir Chronicles series. All the best Christmas Eves are spent hunting down lowlifes and criminals in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is 1930s Detroit, and Correia gives us a well-paced tale that complements the main series. This story made me smile a lot.

My two favorites were “Roads” by Seabury Quinn and “Newsletter” by Connie Willis. “Roads” took me through the life of a Norse barbarian Roman centurion as his life is forever changed through interaction with a very special family. I loved how Quinn wove pieces of history and disparate mythologies, and somehow made it all into a very enjoyable story spanning centuries. This was the most serious story in A Cosmic Christmas, though it didn’t take itself too seriously.

“Newsletter” had a quirky sense of humor, which I expected from Willis. There’s nothing like an alien invasion during the holidays to bring everyone together. Just how that happens, I’ll let you discover for yourself. Willis is a master of fun stories like this one.

A Cosmic Christmas is an excellent collection of short works, whether you believe in Christ or not. Each of the stories is accessible and enjoyable. The stories all have something to do with the holiday, but usually not in the way you expect. I highly recommend you read it.

List of Stories:
    “Introduction: Kris Kringle Goes Kosmic” by Hank Davis
    “Dance in Blue” by Catherine Asaro
    “Lobo, Actually” by Mark L. Van Name
    “On the Hills and Everywhere” by Manly Wade Wellman
    “Angels in Flight” by Sarah A. Hoyt
    “Mad Holiday” by George O. Smith
    “The Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas” by Larry Correia
    “The Vampires Who Saved Christmas” by S.N. Dyer
    “And Visions of Sugar Plums” by S.N. Dyer
    “The Season of Forgiveness” by Poul Anderson
    “Dumb Feast” by Mercedes Lackey
    “Roads” by Seabury Quinn
    “Newsletter” by Connie Willis

Release Date: November 6, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: 1451638620 (9781451638622)
Publisher: Baen Books
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point five stars
Family Friendliness: 80%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (social drinking and smoking)
Language: 1 (some minor)
Sexuality: 1 (minor innuendo)
Violence: 2 (some fisticuffs, general battle descriptions, vampires, alien invasion, gun battle)


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