Book Review: Raygun Chronicles edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

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RaygunChroniclesRaygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, ed.
Every Day Publishing
Publication Date December 3, 2013
hardcover ISBN 978-0-9881257-5-9 · $29.95US/$34.95CAD (preorder for $20.21)
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9881257-6-6 $17.95US/$19.95CAD
ebook: ISBN 978-0-9881257-7-3 $6.99US/$8.99CAD

I’ve been writing a weekly post here at Amazing Stories for almost a year now, and the bulk of them have been reviews. In that time, I’ve never reviewed more than one book by the same author or editor. I’m going to break that pattern with this post.

Not too long ago, I reviewed Beyond the Sun, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It was an impressive anthology. If anything, Raygun Chronicles is even better. I’m a huge fan of space opera, so when this project was announced on Kickstarter, I supported it as soon as I heard about it.

No, those of you who supported the project haven’t missed anything. Bryan Thomas Schmidt was kind enough to send me an advance review copy. The book isn’t actually out yet, but it should be shipping in a couple of weeks.

This one is a mix of original and reprint material, with the reprints coming from Raygun Revival. There’s quite a bit here (24 stories, an introduction, an essay, and a poem, to be exact), more than enough to satisfy the space opera fan.

There’s more than I want to detail here, story by story. Rather, what I’ll do is discuss some of the stories that resonated the most with me. Your mileage may vary, of course, but there’s enough diversity here that that’s to be expected.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch introduces us to a bounty hunter who runs into someone from her past with an offer she not only turns down, but turns around as well in “Rick the Robber Baron.”

Lou Antonelli is a northerner who lives in Texas these days and mines the history and folklore of his adopted state for his fiction, fiction that’s unique and unlike anything being written by anyone else. In “The Silver Dollar Saucer” he takes a couple of two bit desperadoes on a flying saucer ride. I especially liked the ending on this one.

In “Around the Bend” Sarah A. Hoyt delivers an original tale of terrorism in which a woman is in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes hunted for it.

After World War II, the idea of Japanese soldiers marooned on islands for years, never realizing the war was over entered the public consciousness, in part because this really happened. Michael S. Roberts takes that idea into space with the entire crew of the “Sword of Saladin.” I loved the last line of this one.

Keanan Brand combines rebellion, daredevil flying, and a little romance in “Shooting the Devil’s Eye.”  This is a universe I’d like to revisit.

In “Ever Dark,” T. M. Hunter tells the tale of a pirate who discovers a derelict ship. While stealing the cargo, he runs afoul of the authorities, who may be the last people he should trust, and not for the obvious reasons.

Peter J. Wacks takes the term “Space Opera” literally and tells the story of an intergalactic civil war set to music.

Raygun Chronicles hardcover dust jacket
Dust jacket for the hardcover edition.

And Allen M. Steele reveals what a group of mercenaries discover when they rescue “The Heiress of Air” from her kidnappers.

There’s quite a bit more, but these were my favorites. There were some that were pulpy and tongue in cheek, but for various reasons, the ones I liked best were the straight-up adventure stories. Like I said, your mileage may vary. While my tastes are fairly broad, there are also some types of story I simply don’t care for. That doesn’t mean I’m not capable of understanding why the editor picked those particular selections. One of the ways I determine whether an anthology is better than average is on how diverse its contents are rather than how many stories I personally liked. (I’m speaking generally here rather than about Raygun Chronicles in particular. I liked all the stories, just some more than others.)

By that standard, Raygun Chronicles is one of the best anthologies I’ve read this year. Bryan Thomas Schmidt is becoming an editor to watch, and this latest project will help cement his reputation as an up and coming editor in the field.

Keep an eye out for this one.

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