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- Published on Amazon.com
All the stories are worth the read. These are the ones I like. YMMV.
As its name implies, "Encounters" is a collection of 19 short stories about people meeting alien beings. They're not necessarily extraterrestrials, but alien in that their thought processes and actions are different from that of most people. Sometimes monstrously so.
Timothy Koch's "The Potter" is about one such monster. It tells of an encounter between an artist and two construction workers he'd hired to build an extension to his basement. The story flows smoothly and somewhat unsurprisingly until near the end. In particular, the last paragraph was truly disturbing.
"Variation" by Melissa Swanepoel is about an alien encounter where both species have a problem in common; then change their minds. It's an engaging story with a good ending that kept me turning the pages.
Another page turner is "Another Family Function" by Johannes Toivo Svensson. I won't mention the type of encounter it is about--as doing so would give away part of the pleasure of the read. However, if this had been a book, I would have immediately started reading the next chapter to see what happened next.
"Alloy" by Lennart Augustsson is an extremely short tale that will make you groan--unless you're a fan of the humorous short-shorts that Isaac Asimov sometimes wrote; then you'll smile. Read it and judge for yourself.
"Ghostwyrm" by Abby Phelan is an interesting--though too short--dragon story. The author leaves open whether the story is fantasy or science fiction, or a bit of both. However, we're given to know that people are in danger and there may be future conflict. The ending leaves open the possibility of follow-up stories, which we hope the author will supply us with.
A fantasy by Narrelle M. Harris, "Show and Tell", is a fun story involving archaeology, classroom mayhem, and the undead. Read it.
Kimber Camacho's "Unexpected Complications" is an entertaining story involving a number of alien races, a body, and an ending with a Hitchcockian twist.
Susanne Hülsmann's "Missa Aliena" is a story about the friendship between a missionary from Earth and a child on Beta Cambyses IV, a planet known locally as Pekko. The missionary, Brother Ferréol, is going through an identity crises as his friend, eleven-year-old Iakin, is dying of an incurable disease. Though a child from an alien culture, Iakin is remarkably astute and--during his conversations with Ferréol--asks questions and makes statements about life, death, and God that eventually causes the missionary to question his own beliefs.
If you take "Missa Aliena" on the surface, you'll find that it is a good read. It's both emotional and satisfying. However, as I reread it for this review, I became aware that there is more to the story. Before I realized it, I was researching James Blish, Roman Catholic liturgy, Shakespeare, astronomy, and ancient Persian and Babylonian history. So for me, it was also educational.
Jessica Augustsson's "Klein Closet" is a fun read about what could happen if a company had designed storage rooms with the capacity of a Tardis, but didn't thoroughly test them before shipment. People are happy with the closets for awhile, then items begin to disappear...and other things begin to appear.
"New Hope" by Tom Lindahl is an end-of-the-world story; or at least the end of modern civilization. It is brought about by a worldwide pandemic that kills off enough of humanity that our current infrastructure can no longer be maintained. There are towns and villages left, but they are far apart and the survivors are living off the remainder of pre-catastrophe technology.
The protagonist is Megan Boone, the tough, no-nonsense sheriff of the town of New Hope (pop. 500). She is diligent about protecting the town, which is located several days travel from the nearest city and so must be self-sufficient.
The story is about a dustup with the Baker clan located outside of town. The Bakers are a large and well-armed family who aren't above breaking the law if it's to their advantage. Sheriff Boone and her deputy, McConaughey, come across them ambushing a group of travelers. There's a standoff. Tension mounts. There's violence. Then an unexpected ending.
Abby Phelan's "The Long Dark" is a fascinating story about a far-future encounter between aliens and humans at the edge of the galaxy. The humans are in a scout ship and are charting a safe path for a city ship located many light-years behind them. The city ship may or may not be fleeing some place within the galaxy. The alien ship appears to be guarding against something from outside the galaxy. Both the scout and alien ships are heavily armed and possess technologies that are beautiful and strange, but are described in a manner that doesn't interrupt the flow of the story.
And the story flows quite nicely. There is speculation on who the aliens are and what they are doing at the edge of the long dark--the humans' phrase for the void between the galaxies. There is a tense battle that is reminiscent of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. The conflict gets resolved, but not all questions are answered: Who are the aliens? Who is the city ship fleeing from? And why? A lot is going on in the universe that Phelan has created and I hope she writes more about it.