For devoted writers and readers, literary magazines have been a long time staple for both, especially for fans and contributors of the so-called ‘pulp’ genres (fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery). Magazines like Analog, Weird Tales, Asimov’s Science Fiction and the like have for the longest time provided a proving grounds for up-and-coming writers, and for readers and outlet to sample some diverse stories. Though far fallen from the golden age of the pulp magazines, many of the old pulp fiction magazines are still going strong today, and many new ones have found new life on the Internet.
One such example is the aptly named Digital Science Fiction. Despite it having been in existence less than a year, the magazine has made some circles for its three existing issues all topping the charts of the Amazon Kindle Sales charts. Most recently it caught my attention because it’s recently published third issue includes a story by fellow Dudeletter columnist and contributor Matthew Quinn, whose short story Coil Gun is headlining the anthology, as well as inspiring the cover design. Always ready to help a friend, especially if that help involves sinking my teeth into a good science fiction anthology, I decided to give the latest Digital Science Fiction a read, and for your pleasure my dead readers, a review of the issue, dubbed Pressure Suite, and its contents. Without further adieu, here we go:
‘Coil Gun’ by Matthew Quinn – I mean no flattery when I say that there is a reason they chose Quinn and Coil Gun to headline the anthology, as it is easily the best short-story of the issue. The story itself is an alternate history sci-fi story, taking place in a world where an Afrikaner superpower dominates most of Africa and the Indian Ocean, and is in the midst of a Cold war with the USA and its allies, and during the course of the story, we see that Cold War go hot. Though you will find a far more in-depth review on my site and some details of the stories universe on his, I will say it is well written, well paced, and just as rife with tension as WWIII should be, and in addition, it does well making you care for both sides. Superb story, and I can honestly say if this story is an indicator, Quinn will be a writer we need to keep on our radars.
’50-Foot Woman over Redgunk, Mississippi’ by William R. Eakin – Not going to lie, after Coil Gun, this story was really disappointing. As you can guess from the title, it follows a woman from Mississippi as she grows well beyond her normal stature, and deals with the issues that come with it. Despite the homage to early 1950s B-movies, the story never really has much of a pace to it, and it gets really convoluted and confusing by the end. Certainly the anthologies weakest link, it is the only story included I did not enjoy.
‘Beyond Valhalla’ by Laura J. Campbell – The anthology picks back up with this unconventional story following the life of a space-farer as his life goes steadily downhill, though I can’t tell you how exactly due to spoilers. Good story, though I’d love to see it fleshed out more.
‘Brae na Urd’ by R.J. Bell – despite the unwieldy title, it’s a good story, though one with some unneeded drug references. A group of buddies come back from a camping trip to see their world turned upside down. Not bad, but could have been better if not for ending where it did and the incredibly forced drug use.
‘The Blanket Box’ by David Murphy – We get a little taste of Inception-style cyberpunk in the latest story, following a virtual reality beta-tester whom traverses deeper and deeper into the game world to his painful past in the real world. Gets off on a slow start but builds to a nice finish.
‘Pressure and the Argument Tree’ by Kyle Aisteach – This story follows a cloud diver on Venus, who dives for the unlucky (and mostly dead) folks who fall off of the floating cities in the planets skies. When his wife isn’t arguing with him that is. Solid story, well written, and inventive usage of scenery and his brief descriptions of Venusian society. One of the better stories of the collection.
‘Skirmish at Heklara’ by James C. Glass – Nice military science fiction story that follows the daughter of a war hero on her first mission, and how she learns very quickly that no mission plan survives first contact with the enemy. Solid story, good pacing and characterization, and quite enjoyable as a whole. For fans of military science fiction like myself, this will prove a favorite.
‘The Crossing’ by Fox McGeever – Aside from Coil Gun, this is the collection’s best inclusion. Alot of what makes the story stand out invloves plot subject matter, so I will refrain from spoiling the suprise, and will just say it handles a very tough hard sci-fi topic masterfully. The story is good, the charachters lively, and thr descriptions vivid. All around I liked it.
‘The Sun Dodgers’ by Kate O’ Conner – Follows a hopeful space pilot as she tries out for the most elite unit in the system, and the audition process that involves nanomite integration. Good story, though disappointing as it cuts off at a moment that leaves you wanting more.
‘Son of Man’ by Jason Palmer – Ending Pressure Suite with a solid finish, Son of Man follows a pair of doctors as they attempt to find out what is wrong an asteroid homesteader as he is plagued by a myserious growth that looks to be far more than a mere tumor. Not to give away any spoilers, it deals with some interesting ideas and themes and ends nicely. The medical-speak invloved seems authentic, though not too complex for the non-medically adept like myself. As whole, it wraps up things nicely on a thoughtful note.
As a whole, Pressure Suite proves to be a nice little science fiction anthology. All of the stories are well written, and even the ones I did not care for weren’t particularly bad. The ones I did enjoy all left me wanting more and I would happily reread or pick up something novel length should the writers decide to carry the ideas further and make full length stories out of them. The anthology is enjoyable, a good read, and for the low price, worth every penny. It certainly doesn’t hurt a portion of those profits will go to support one of the Dudeletter’s own. To fans of science fiction, I recommend Pressure Suite – Digital Science Fiction Anthology 3 wholeheartedly, and urge you to pick up a copy at once.