This is the first short story collection by Brian Herbert, and I was a bit bemused by the inclusion of “Two Heads and One Fat Pig”, which Brian states he wrote when he was seven. I couldn’t understand why it was included. I have come to believe there’s a reason for this, but more on the subject later.
The premise of “Earth Games” was fascinating. A tale of how humanity and its allies are defeated in a future war by the alien Corkers. The bad-guys’ planet, Corker, is dying – to deflect concern about this, the aliens host gladiatorial games, such as the human traditional sport ‘Road Rage’, which is a great idea for a story. One can’t help but wonder why the aliens spent so much time planting vineyards on their conquered worlds, rather than evacuating their planet, but who knows how aliens think?
The first line of “The Egg and the Dragon” really grabbed my attention: “A black dwarf stood in the doorway.” Now, if that doesn’t hook a reader nothing will. Likewise, the title “The Great Steam Time Machine”, which I thought very H.G. Wells. As for “Santaphobia”, again a great title and it’s not only wonderfully written but has to be one of my favourites. This part I truly enjoyed:
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” sang Santa. “What would you like for Christmas, little boy?”
“I want my Mama!” shrieked Roger. With that, he reached up and punched Santa in the eye with a tiny fist.
Readers will adore some of the tales in this book, as there are some real gems here.
When you look compare “Two Heads and One Fat Pig” to other stories in this collection, you can see how Brian has developed as a writer – and when you take this in context the book becomes extraordinarily interesting. It not only shows Brian’s evolution through the craft of writing, but it also makes one sit back and think about how other writers (and perhaps our own work) develops from early days. When you do that you can perhaps begin to understand the concept behind the book: how a beginner can hone his craft until he becomes a master story teller. It takes a lot of courage to do that, to lay one’s soul bare, and I take my hat off to him.
Brian Herbert’s novels are doing exceptionally well, and when we compare some of these early tales to his current works, we can see his meteoric progression. And what a wonderful ride that must have been for him.