SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 972 No Longer Dreams, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail Book Review |

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No Longer Dreams, edited by Danielle AckleyMcPhail
Genre: Mixed Genre Anthology
Publisher: Lite Circle
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 11/23/2006
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10

No Longer Dreams, edited by Danielle AckleyMcPhail

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

No Longer Dreams is an uneven collection of twenty-four stories and eight poems by "established authors in the field and talents newly discovered." The anthology also features black-and-white illustrations, including several by Travis Ingram; the jagged lines and stark contrasts in his work perfectly complement the book's mostly dark subject matter.

Every anthology needs a strong opening to intrigue readers and set the tone. The editors made a poor choice by starting with Dan Foley's "Fat Tuesday," an uninspired tale of retribution concluding with a gross-out scene that begs the question: Doesn't anyone ever drop by the emergency room before performing a bloody act of self-mutilation? Ironically, the collection's closing story - John C. Wright's "Not Born a Man" - would have served better as its lead: The incredible action never lets up in Wright's fantastic and fully realized nightmare vision.

Some of the tales in the book manage to succeed despite venturing into familiar territory. Take "Meat," for example: The zombie cliches are easily forgiven because of Adam P. Knave's sharp writing. And in Mattie Brahen's "Tiny Doll-Face," readers won't be surprised by the "shock" ending, but they'll be chilled and disgusted anyway.

A few authors in the collection mix humor with horror to freshen up their stale subject matter. Steve Johnson's "The Doom That Came to Necropolis" is a double pastiche of H.P. Lovecraft and E.E. "Doc" Smith; the result is a treat, from its cartographic references to genre giants ("Ramsey Hill," "Bloch Heights") to its narrator's over-dramatic exclamations ("What unfathomable mysteries could cause such an unnatural deceit?"). In Darrell Schweitzer's "Kvetchula," a man drags his wife to Transylvania for the Deluxe Vampire Tour, and when the married couple is enlisted into the ranks of the undead, the wife kvetches (complains) all the way to the head vampire: Count Dracula himself.

Although the anthology is divided into Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction sections, it's difficult to label work like Danielle Ackley-McPhail's "The Forest of a Thousand Lost Souls": In the story, a general is haunted by nightmares of Lovecraftian creatures as he prepares the emperor's troops for battle, but the tale feels less like horror and more like fantasy. Then again, at least one piece in the Fantasy section doesn't fit: "Frankie's Wish" by M.J. Harris - a modern-day story of hope and faith in the midst of real-world tragedy - simply has no place in an anthology of speculative fiction. There are more "traditional" fantasy tales in the collection, to be sure: A tyrannical lord imprisons an ageless practitioner of a powerful Art in John C. Wright's "The Kindred," and enemies play a deadly game of cat and mouse (or is it gargor and witch?) in C.J. Henderson's "To the Beast."

Most of the science fiction stories in the anthology are more concerned with the human condition than with futuristic technology - and this isn't a bad thing. John C. Wright mentions time-streams and alternate temporal chronoverses in "Father's Monument," though he is truly writing about spirituality. James Chambers depicts a tense standoff between settlers and poachers on the planet Byanntia in "The Law of the Kuzzi," but he could have written essentially the same story as historical fiction instead. And Will McDermott speaks out against prejudice with "Adrift in the Maelstrom," a Star Trek-style adventure in which a human learns to respect his "bug" and "bird" colleagues.

No Longer Dreams "began as a way to celebrate the progress" of a writer's group headed up by senior editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail, but the result is a collection that varies widely in quality. Ackley-McPhail admits that the anthology "was produced from concept to bound book in three months" and there wasn't enough time to polish some of the work. Still, the good outweighs the bad here, and perhaps the release of future volumes will be timed to allow more breathing room for editing, so that each story can be polished to perfection.
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