I recently received a copy of the newest sci-fi anthology, BRAVE NEW GIRLS. I have stated a few times that I am not a fan of short stories, and for that matter, anthologies. However, I will admit this was a book of shorts I was looking forward to reading. I just hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Let start by describing the book itself. At just over 380 pages (paperback), the collection of eighteen stories is edited by Paige Daniels, and Mary Fan. The cover, by Streetlight Graphics, is compelling enough to pick the book up and flip through the pages. There are amazing illustrations that start off each story as if it were a novella. The artists are very talented, and also deserve a shout-out: Hazel Butler, Ken Dawson, Adrian DeFuria, Evelinn Enoksen, Mary Fan, Christopher Godsoe, Kayla Keeton, Jason Kucharik, Jennifer L. Lopez, Tash McAdam, and Josh Pritchett. There is no identified publisher (which might be worth creating if this is to become an annual publication).
While there is no way I can (well I could) review all eighteen stories, I am going to review a few I liked best. I will start off by saying that I read the entire book, but not cover to cover. Instead picked stories out in my own personal order, for my own personal tastes at the time I sat down to read until I had read them all! Let me tell you this — wow. There was not one story I did not like. I may even begin to look at anthologies and short stories more favorably on the whole because of BRAVE NEW GIRLS. They are perfect bite-sized tales that I can devour in very little time, and yet feel satisfied. These stories are a lot like a Snickers Bar. I mean –how can someone NOT like that?
As a long time fan of Stephen Kozeniewski, I decided to start with “The Keys to the Stars.” Judy is a busy college professor who receives an odd phone call, but agrees to take it because the message consists of prime numbers. She remembers back to a time when she was just a child and helped space aliens in their time of need. She is afraid that the terms of their agreement are up. Will civilization on earth come to an end as she knows it?
This short story shows Kozeniewski’s diversity as an author. I’ve read his novels. Trust me. “The Keys to the Stars” is completely different from anything else he’s written. Don’t get me wrong, the short still contains tension, and action, suspense and drama. It is just … different. Not bad different. But different. I enjoyed it very much.
The next story I tackled was Mary Fan’s “Takes a Hacker.” Now I have known Fan for a year or two. We don’t talk much. Not sure why. She is busy. I am busy. It happens. Aside from “Takes a Hacker,” I have not yet read any of her novels. However, that is about to change. Fan has smooth talent that seems to flow effortlessly through her writing. She makes the complex simple for readers. She uses enough description to put you there, and enough tension and suspense to keep the ride in motion. (For what it is worth, I believe I will be checking out her latest releases, Artificial Absolutes … just FYI).
Anywho … I loved this conspiratory tale. Vieve is an unfortunate teen involved in a crash and can’t help feeling ostracized by her peers for having survived. During a school competition when she submits her entry, the judges want her arrested for creating something too close to A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), and the only person she can trust is a non judgmental student, Jane. Can they figure out if someone is jealous of Vieve, or has Vieve purposefully broken the law and deserving of a prison sentence?
Paige Daniels tells an emotionally gripping story in, “The Outpost.” Sixteen year old Lyvia dreams of being a pilot. Her fathers expect her to become a scientist. They move from asteroid to asteroid on the tail end of mining digs. When Lyvia’s life is suddenly turned upside down. Was it an honest accident that left her alone, or were sinister groups against mining responsible for the havoc wreaked on the asteroid? With a close-knit group of friends, Lyvia is going to get to the bottom of the mystery!
Daniels is the author of the NON-COMPLIANCE trilogy, an engineer, and a mom. Not a bad life, and not a bad writer. Her dialogue is fantastic. I think spot-on for kids from the future. The narrative is clean and concise. She grabbed my attention from the opening line. Bravo!
Philly Ramirez is on parole for the internet theft of millions. As a seventeen year old convicted hacker it would seem things could only get better. Putting her electronic skills to better use, Philly works in a cemetery, maintaining holograms of those who have passed. The emitter allows the grieving to see and hear recorded broadcasts from the departed. Unfortunately, when a hologram is purposely tampered with, it looks as if the company she stole from is up to more than just commerce. Thrust into a murder mystery, with a list of unanswered questions, Philly tries to figure out why a powerful CEO went to the trouble of killing his own son, and if she is lucky, find out what really happened to her brother in Kimberly G. Giarratano’s “Graveyard Shift.”
Giarratano is the other of two novels, and dreams of moving to the Keys where she can write in a small studio just like Hemmingway. I hope that dream comes true for her. She has a nice way with words. She crafted characters I connected with, a plot that was engaging, and a story that mattered. “Graveyard Shift” is a kind of futuristic Robin Hood tale, take from the rich, give to the poor –except, it is nothing like a Robin Hood tale. If I had three thumbs, I’d give this story three thumbs up. I don’t. I have two. So two will have to do.
As I have stated, I cannot possibly review all eighteen short stories. Unfortunately, they all deserve review. The entire book is wonderful, and beautifully put together. The editors have assembled a collection that is worthy of awards. I hope my brief glimpse into the anthology are enough to whet your appetite for more. It should. It really should. I have discovered new authors because of this book, and will be adding more novels by each of them to my Amazon shopping cart. If anything, that is the best part for me. Reading stories that make me want more from the writers. But please, don’t take my word for it. Check out BRAVE NEW GIRLS for yourself. I don’t think you will be disappointed at all.