Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love a good anthology. I have over 100 of them, and I’m always looking for new ones with new stories. Lyn Worthen has packed Mirages and Speculations: Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Desert with seventeen solid and entertaining stories from many authors I’ve read before and a few new ones.
It was hard to pick just a few of my favorites from this collection as I rated eleven of the stories at five stars. Since I can’t review every story in Mirages and Speculations (not enough space in the review), I picked “A Single Spark” by Mary Pletsch, “Thunderbird’s Egg” by Diann T. Read, “The Healer” by Susan J. Kroupa, “Soul Walls” by Julia H. West, and “Greg and Eli” by Paul Genesse.
Sharareh is sold by her father to a foreign unicorn hunter, but things turn out quite differently than she expected in “A Single Spark.” I loved her strong characterization. I could practically feel her anger seeping into my hands as I held the book. This story’s take on unicorns is very imaginative and makes me want to read more stories set in this world. I hope Pletsch writes more of them. As Worthen wrote in her introduction to the story, this story really evokes the classic tales from the Arabian Nights.
I’ve been a fan of Read since Ganwold’s Child back in 1991. In “Thunderbird’s Egg”, she draws on her experiences in the Air Force to tell an amazing story of courage and deep beliefs. I loved how she wove together the modern and the ancient into a strong and respectful story about a Navajo woman who wouldn’t give up on her dreams, and who wouldn’t deny her roots. This story was a solid anchor for Mirages and Speculations.
In another nod to the ancient peoples of North America, “The Healer” shares the story of Movi, a Hopi girl. As she struggles to find out who she is and how to fit into a world struggling to recover after an apocalypse, she must learn to believe in herself and not doubt her newfound power. If you can’t stand reading about spiders, you should avoid this story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Keeping the Hopi alive (yes, a horrible pun) by having them colonize another planet, West describes a world filled with the colors of the desert. Tiva is apprenticed to an aging painter of soul walls, and she impatiently waits for the day she can paint them herself. The experiences in this story teach her more about herself, and also teach a lesson in listening to the right things. It made me miss my visits to red mesas of the Southwest.
Finally, “Greg and Eli” tells a story that is bound to cause some readers to choke up with emotion. Anyone who has moved to a new town when young will find it easy to sympathize with Greg. Being the outsider, and finding ways to cope with that, are central to this story. I loved how Genesse tapped into those feelings and used them to move the story along to a wonderful and satisfying conclusion.
This is an excellent anthology. All were different (despite some sharing some similar protagonist characteristics), and this made Mirages and Speculations: Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Desert even stronger. If you like fun and imaginative short stories, told with strength and feeling, you will enjoy this anthology. I highly recommend it.
“The Strange Vanishing of Charles Prescott, Billionaire” by Johnny Worthen
“Thuderbird’s Egg” by Diann T. Read
“Bungee” by Melva L. Gifford
“The Healer” by Susan J. Kroupa
“Voices of the Dead” by Jay Barnson
“Greg and Eli” by Paul Genesse
“Seven Stars” by D.J. Butler
“Garden of Legion” by David J. West
“The Moon Girl” by M. Shayne Bell
“And Cry the Name of David” by Virginia Ellen Baker
“Soul Walls” by Julia H. West
“Alpha Romeo” by Julie Frost
“High Risk” by Voss Foster
“Runes of Air and Sand” by Gama Ray Martinez
“Spaceman Sid and the Tentacles of Peace” by Leigh Saunders
“A Single Spark” by Mary Pletsch
“One Sun, No Waiting” by Annie Reed
Release Date: August 30, 2017 (USA)
ISBNs: 197592648X (9781975926489)
Publisher: Camden Park Press
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief, social)
Language: 1 (brief, minor, deity)
Sexuality: 1 (brief innuendo)
Violence: 2 (some fisticuffs, suicide, broken limbs, extreme peril, death)