Monday, March 23, 2015

Operation Arcana - John Joseph Adams, ed.

Last year Baen Books published an anthology of military fantasy called SHATTERED SHIELDS, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I read it and enjoyed most of the stories. This year brings another such anthology from Baen, this time called OPERATION ARCANA and edited by John Joseph Adams. There's some overlap among authors between the two books, but not much. And similarly, there are some excellent stories to be found here. My favorites include:

"The Damned One Hundred" by Jonathan Maberry, a different and very effective twist on the old plot about a small group of warriors defending a mountain pass against an overwhelmingly large force of enemies.

"The Guns of the Wastes" by Django Wexler, a sort of naval adventure but set on land, with mechanized "ships" taking on a robotic horde. This strikes me more as science fiction than fantasy, but it's full of action and has an intriguing setting. I was impressed enough by it to pick up Wexler's first novel and will give it a try.

"American Golem" by Weston Ochse, an anti-terrorist story set in Afghanistan with a decidedly different protagonist. Despite the fantasy element, this one has a real air of authenticity about it.

"Heavy Sulfur" by Ari Marmell is a World War I yarn that finds both sides using sorcery in trench warfare. Given my fondness for WWI stories, I was predisposed to like it, which I did.

"Sealskin" by Carrie Vaughn, a Navy SEAL story with a fantasy element. This one could have used more plot and the twist is pretty obvious, but the writing is nice and the protagonist really likable.

"The Black Company on the Long Run" is, of course, a Black Company story by Glen Cook. I've read only a couple of these, and while Cook's style takes a little getting used to for me, I really like them. I have to get to the novels soon.

"Bombers' Moon" by Simon R. Green is a very different take on the firebombing of Dresden and the latter days of World War II. This is a suspenseful story and probably my favorite in the books. I recall reading a book by Simon R. Green years ago and not liking it much. I may have to rethink that and try something else by him.

Most of the other stories are good, too. There are only a couple I didn't care for, which is a pretty good ratio for an anthology. Overall, I can give a definite recommendation to OPERATION ARCANA. If you enjoy military fantasy, mostly on the gritty, hardboiled side, you should check it out.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

You should check out Simon R. Green's Nightside series, set in an underground world "under" the real London where magic works. The protagonist is John Taylor, sort of a hardboiled p.i. with a power of his own.

Jeff M.

Richard said...

It's the sub-par stories that put me off buying many short story collections. I try to get them from the library system these days, and if not available there, usually skip them. I do like the cover on this one.