Review: Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake

A diverse collection of works, Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake is a fitting tribute for the author who gave us so much raw candor over the years.

Last Plane To Heaven coverOriginally published by Tor Books in September of 2014, Last Plane to Heaven by the prolific science fiction and fantasy author Jay Lake was a bitter pill to swallow for many of his fans seeing how its release followed his passing just a few months earlier. Billed as “The Final Collection” which is perhaps a bit disingenuous as his vast body of novels, short stories, and blogging work far exceeds the limited physicality of these pages, the book does provide a crisp glimpse into the conscious of Jay Lake.

Lake’s work spread across many forms of media, amassing a fan base just as diverse as the words he wrote. Last Plane to Heaven includes a fitting sampling of his body of work including selections from science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk (the genre that first drew me into his fantastic world), as well as some of his thoughts on his stoic battle with cancer.

The first story, appropriately the namesake of the book, is a novelette that takes a bizarre look at mortality through angelic dreams with cryptic imagery comparable to Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Many of the stories that follow will take readers to dark places while a few of them are invitingly less dramatic. Regardless of their varied lengths, all of them are complex and imaginative. If you’re looking for a starting point for some stimulating conversations, pick any installment of this anthology.

The works selected for Last Plane to Heaven are as diverse as the publications they originally appeared in, and this collection is a testament to the author’s range of imagination. The collection includes:

 

The Last Plane to Heaven: A Love Story (From Jim Baen’s Universe, 2007)

Houses of the Favored (From Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, 2010, Ulysses Press)

The Starship Mechanic (From Tor.com, 2010)

Permanent Fatal Errors (From Anybody Out There?, 2010, DAW)

“’Hello,’ Said the Gun” (From Daily Science Fiction, 2010)

The Speed of Time (From Tor.com, 2013)

West to East (From Subterranean Online, 2014)

The Women Who Are Stone Squid (From Love and Rockets, 2010, DAW)

Looking for Truth in a Wild Blue Yonder (From Tor.com, 2010)

Scent of the Green Cathedral (From Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, 2010, )

Spendthrift (From Coins of Chaos, 2013, EDGE)

Jefferson’s West (From Boondocks Fantasy, 2011, DAW)

They are Forgotten Until They Come Again (From River, 2011, Dark Quest Books)

The Woman Who Shattered the Moon (From The Villain Comes Home, 2012, Moon Press)

The Blade of His Plow (From Human for a Day, 2011, DAW)

Grindstone (From Airships and Automatons, 2013, White Cat Publications)

The Temptation of Eustace Prudence McAllen (From Westward Weird, 2012, DAW)

That Which Rises Ever Upward (From The Fathomless Abyss, 2011, Athans Associates)

A Feast of Angels (From Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, 2010, Ulysses Press)

Promises: A Tale of the City Imperishable (From Paper Cities, 2008, Senses Five Press)

Testaments (From The Book of Dreams, 2010, Subterranean)

The Fall of the Moon (From Realms of Fantasy, 2010)

A Critical Examination of Stigmata’s Print Taking the Rats to Riga (From The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists, 2011, HarperCollins)

From the Countries of Her Dreams (From Fantasy Magazine, 2010)

Unchambered Heart (From The Chiaroscuro, 2011)

Novus Ordo Angelorum (From Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, 2010, Ulysses Press)

The Tentacled Sky (From (From Drabblecast, 2010)

Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names (From Cthulhu’s Reign, 2010, DAW)

Her Fingers Like Whips, Her Eyes Like Razors (From Poscripts, 2011)

Mother Urban’s Brooke of Days (From Dark Faith, 2010, Apex Publications)

Going Bad (From Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, 2010, Ulysses Press)

The Cancer Catechism (From Dark Faith: Invocations, 2014, Apex Publications)

 

This book is more than just an anthology. Last Plane to Heaven is a therapeutic glimpse at the human condition. Some may find the spirituality, or lack of spirituality, off-putting. But fans of Lake will appreciate the raw candor the author has given us over the years and this is a fitting tribute.

The Afterward of Last Plane to Heaven was penned by Jay Lake. He takes the time to describe his writing experience, which is not unfamiliar to countless other writers.  But the epitome of the author’s entire body of work, a short lifetime made even briefer by a horrible disease, is immortalized by his heart rendering dedication found at the beginning of the book.

“In the end, words are all that survive us.”

Sometimes, that’s all we need.

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