Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers and Anna Hackett
December 2012, Science Fiction
Carina Press, $7.99, 247 pages
This book is available from Amazon and other online retailers.
Mixing the holidays and science fiction appears to be the perfect combination, with a bit of the traditional mixed in with the creative and imaginative. And while I liked two of the stories, I do wish that the combination had been a little heavier on the holiday aspect than the science fiction. Still, all the stories were inventive.
Science Fiction (2062 Chicago)
First up is How the Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail. Detective Reina Vedette has had a hellacious year. This time last year she was the top detective in the city with level five clearance, plus she was just coming off one of the biggest busts in her career. Her star couldn’t have shined any brighter. But with the police commissioner’s announcement of mandatory biomechanical bod mods for continued advancement, her career tanked. The quality of her work didn’t change, but the powers to be kept busting her down in order to get her to conform. But she remembers how alien and wrong it felt when she was ill as a child, and was on mechanical life support. She is resolved never to feel that way again, no matter how great the coercion.
If being demoted in rank is not bad enough, she has had to watch Edison Wicke become the department's new golden boy. He didn’t have a problem becoming a bootlicker and getting bod mods, in fact he was the first one to sign up for them. But then he has always been a thorn in her side, with his swaggering ways. She would just love to pop him in the kisser.
Now they are working on a case together. Someone set up a real Christmas tree with real popcorn, and other trimmings, and provided presents for the two children, living in the home.
While I didn’t understand the basic premise why a detective would be investigating the appearance of a Christmas tree, even with the stolen toys, of all the stories this is my favorite. Ms. Gail has a real talent for writing flirtatious dialog. The sexual attraction simmers below the surface, building anticipation. Plus the characters are appealing.
Grade: BScience Fiction
The second story is Galileo's Holiday by Sasha Summers. It is easy to identify Riley as a tugger, with her large eyes (an adaptation brought about from the dim lights she lives in), small frame and pale skin. But she has no complaints. Her mother’s mother bought the family ship, nicknamed the fishbowl. While it may be old it is paid for, and it is the only home that Riley has ever known. Mining for ice, she makes a stop for repairs on Galileo, and then is devastated after a raider ship destroys her tug, leaving her stranded. Luckily, Leo, a trader is nearby, and knows the area. He takes her to the nearest station, where she is warmly welcome by the occupants.
There is plenty of temptation there though, from the succulent food to Leo, with his studly body. But the locale has its own dangers as does Leo. Not only does he play havoc with Riley’s emotions and desires, people are looking for him, and the goods he trades.
The opening of the story was a little confusing to me. I couldn’t determine if Riley was repairing her ship while in space or on the ground, even after re-reading it several times. The characterization is good, and I especially liked the secondary characters from the outpost and their heartwarming traditions. The relationship development is a disappointment though, starting very much on just a physical level, rather than emotional. But it is the ending that had me stunned. Not that it is surprising for a science fiction story but it is definitely startling for a Christmas one. It sure took me out of the holiday mood, reading the gory details.
Grade: C-Science Fiction
The last story in the anthology is Winter Fusion by Anna Hackett. Perma finally has the commodities, Perman fusion crystals, which will buy their way into the Trade Guild. Five years ago they applied for membership but were denied, costing them dearly. Being unable to trade for state-of-the-art medical equipment resulted in many unnecessary deaths. Brinn Fjord lost her own father and she holds Savan Bardan, the Rendarian trade negotiator that blocked their membership, responsible.
Savan had very altruistic reasons for making Perma wait, but he knows that bargaining with Brinn for the crystals will be challenging and demanding. Nevertheless, it is imperative for his planet that they gain access to this new power source. After several near-miss accidents, Brinn and Savan realize that someone will do whatever it takes to prevent the transaction. But their first priority is finding shelter from the bitter cold, and then staying alive.
Winter Fusion is a likeable story. The characters are appealing. The dialog is realistic and the conflict is believable. Still, falling in love on the run is not one of my favorite plot devices. Plus, Brinn changed too quickly for believability, rapidly forgiving Savan then changing their relationship to a more intimate one.
Maybe if you are prepared for the lack of good will toward men in A Galactic Holiday, you will enjoy all the stories. If you don’t want to chance it, you can buy them individually.
-- Leigh Davis
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