Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REVIEW: Raygun Chronicles

Title: Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age
Editor: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Genre: science fiction / space opera
Price: $29.95 (hardcover) $17.95 (trade paperback) $6.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Every Day Publications
ISBN: 978-0-9881257-5-9
Point of Sale: various retailers via publisher's website
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I have to admit, when I was handed a copy of Raygun Chronicles, I was a bit daunted.  At 360 pages, the book would appear to make a fine doorstop.  Usually in such a broad anthology, I only end up finishing half the stories.  Not so with Raygun – I finished and enjoyed every single one!

Raygun Chronicles is the brainchild of Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and is an outgrowth of his now-defunct webzine Raygun Revival.  Basically, the book is a “best of” anthology with a few original stories added.  Since I hadn’t heard of Raygun Revival, everything in the book was new to me, and as I said above, really very good.

In general, what I liked about the stories was the characters.  In the serious stories (the bulk of the book) the characters were realistic and I found myself caring about them.  In the four humorous stories, the characters were just enough “off” to be believable in the context of the story.  Some specific stories that stood out for me:

Frontier ABCs: The Life and times of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher by Seanan McGuire: The lead-off story, this is a Firefly-inspired tale of a schoolteacher one should not trifle with.  It’s set in our Solar System, with the bulk of the action taking place on a terraformed Ganymede.

Rick the Robber Baron by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:  This was an interesting story in which the female lead starts by being tied to a wooden post on her own ship.  To make matters worse, the person who did the tying was somebody who had had a fling with our heroine.  It’s complicated, to say the least, but enjoyable.

Sword of Saladin by Michael S. Roberts:  In this tale an enemy tells the captain of the Earth battlecruiser Himalaya that she should have sex with herself.  She thinks that’s a fine idea – on the bridge of his ship!

Holly Defiant by Brenda Cooper:  The titular character is one heck of a singer.  She also appears to be the target of some evil men, and our narrator decides to help.  There are several turns in this tale, none of which I saw coming.

The Slavers of Ruhn by Rob Mancebo:  This is another Firefly-inspired story, in which a woman’s dress proves critical to saving the day.

The Heiress of Air by Allen M. Steele: A rich young woman is kidnapped, and our daring band goes forth to save her.  Again, things are not what they seem.


Bryan Thomas said...

Chris, thanks for doing this. It was a pleasant gift this weekend. So glad you enjoyed it. We hope to do more. For the record, Johne Cook, Lee King and Paul Christian Glenn created and edited Ray Gun Revival. I just was brought in to anthologize for the publisher. We thought there was a larger audience that would like this stuff. Glad to know that's true.

Phy said...

Hey, Chris,
Thanks for the stellar review! This was a collaborative effort between Bryan, our publisher Every Day Publishing, and myself representing the Ray Gun Revival editors. Bryan and Camille / Jordan at EDP are the visionaries who made Raygun Chronicles happen. The stories from RGR served as a genesis for the project but Bryan and Camille really pulled everything together into such a great package to put it all over the top. Bryan ran the Kickstarter, rounded up some phenomenal Name authors, and oversaw the entire thing. Jordan Ellinger believed in RGR when no-one else did and EDP provided a great home for the 'zine. As a cover art snob myself, the cover for the book by Paul Pederson was phenomenal, just pitch-perfect. I couldn't be more pleased with the art design and the fonts and the colors... Bryan and Camille outdid themselves and I am so pleased and proud of their work on this project. RGR was started after the untimely death of Firefly as a way to promote Space Opera. With the publication of this anthology, it is clear Space Opera is in good hands!