No Way Home is an anthology of speculative fiction containing novella-length stories from eight writers. This collection has been curated by Lucas Bale and edited by Alex Roddie, both accomplished authors in their own right who also contribute their own tales. I was offered an Advance Review Copy.
The theme of this anthology is ‘stranded’, and it’s clear from the striking cover that this is going to be a bleak read! Fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction will adore No Way Home from cover to cover. Personally I would have liked a little more variation in tone, as part of the joy of an anthology is jumping from one genre to another. But it’s to be expected that given such a starting point, authors would feel obliged to tell downbeat stories.
Each of the authors featured here are clearly at the height of their powers. These are professional, polished works that each paint an effective picture, ranging from alien worlds to distant futures to historical environments. The quality is consistently high throughout, and it’s down to individual taste as to which story works best for each reader. My thoughts on each:
To Sing of Chaos and Eternal Night by Lucas Bale makes use of popular SF imagery such as future war against an alien force and soldiers plugged into battle-machines. I’m a huge fan of such things in movie format but found this overly-detailed and somewhat formulaic, yet still engrossing.
XE, or People Are Strange by S. Elliot Brandis is as close to light-hearted as this anthology gets, with a very unlikely explorer bumbling around a colourful alien planet. Very well-written and I enjoyed reading this hugely, but felt the final denouement was a little illogical.
Grist by J.S. Collyer is set in a futuristic mine for a substance called bloodgrease, and the desperation of some inhabitants to reach what’s left of the outside world. Although very easy to visualise, I wasn’t drawn in by this story and felt the resolution could have been stronger.
Merely A Madness by S.W. Fairbrother effectively portrays an Earth that has declined into a global slum complete with troglodytic tribes. Highly believable characterisation and economic wordplay made this an effective and at times shocking tale.
Revolver by Michael Patrick Hicks, however, takes the ‘shocking’ gold medal. A classic example of social science fiction, this portrays a nightmarish future America with clear roots in the present day. Ironically this story is the furthest away from the ‘stranded’ theme and yet I found it the most gripping.
The Happy Place by Harry Manners also features some good characterisation amongst the fatigued astronauts aboard a Mars station as their sanity slowly unravels. A great one for fans of Martian fiction but I felt it could have used some tightening up.
Renata by Nadine Matheson features time-travelling assassins and seers who can predict future events. Despite such imaginative elements, for me this story was a little on the stodgy side and featured no characters I could empathise with.
Cold Witness by A.S. Sinclair is an atmospheric tale set around a mysterious abandoned military base in 1976. Although I found it tricky keeping track of fractured realities and identities, this is an unusual and off-beat story told with great skill.
As a whole, this is a great example of speculative fiction that showcases some accomplished writing. I am keen to see what each of these authors would make of another theme, perhaps one that allows a broader interpretation with more scope for different styles. So congratulations to everyone involved and I look forward to the next anthology!