Monday, December 08, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Worlds of Their Own edited by James Lowder

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Publisher Planet Stories caters to an untapped niche with Worlds of Their Own, an anthology featuring writers commonly known for their media tie-in work writing original fiction. Big names like R. A. Salvatore and Ed Greenwood are featured as well as veteran authors such as Greg Stolze and Will McDermott. The tag-line at the back cover says "Adventure Without Limits!" and that pretty much sums up the bulk of the stories featured here. If you want action with perhaps a more pulpy feel, this is one of the books that'll interest you.

For the most part, this is a fantasy anthology with a few stories falling under the science fiction category. The quality of the stories are more or less even, all competently written at the very least. Again, the vein of Worlds of Their Own is action/adventure and the opening story, "Mather's Blood" by R. A. Salvatore, pretty much sets the tone for the book: it's not this uniquely original story but gets away with telling an interest tale on the surface level, whether it's the daring and bravado of its protagonists or simply describing a a cool scene. I'm not familiar with the settings featured in the book save for two but they stand well on their own.

Having said that, there are some stories which caught my eye. "The Oaths of Gods" by Nancy Virginia Varian weaves a seemingly expansive cosmology based on real myth that features a consistent tone and mood all throughout. Her story hints at something bigger and more tragic yet manages to distill the important elements in a compact short story. This piece felt quite fresh and different, at the same time building upon the knowledge of the reader.

"The Admiral's Reckoning" by J. Robert King starts out strong but as we get immersed in the narrative, the story takes a different turn that's a welcome detour. One could easily use the words "kick-ass" to describe this piece but thanks to King's technique, this simply isn't all fireworks and attitude but a powerful character-driven story. Also kudos to the author for delivering one of the more otherworldly aliens in a science fiction setting.

"Three Impossible Things" by Lisa Smedman is relatively short but accomplishes what it sets out to do. This easily could have been a modern fairy tale and while perhaps not the most outstanding story in the book, it has its own charm right down to the last sentence.

Overall, I think looking at the credits of the anthology, including the editor James Lowder, best sums up whether the book is for you. I mean if you enjoy the stories of Elaine Cunningham or Paul S. Kemp, then go for Worlds of Their Own even if you're stepping into unfamiliar territory. On the other hand, if you don't want to read another D&D-like short story and looking for literary fiction with gravitas, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. I found Worlds of Their Own to be quite fun and enjoyable, definitely succeeding on its own terms.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking time to read and review this book. I wish more reviewers would consider as a central question, "Does this book accomplish what it set out to achieve?"

Elaine Cunningham
Lacking literary gravitas since 1991

Charles said...