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No Longer Dreams, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail Book Review | SFReader.com
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
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.
Click here to buy No Longer Dreams, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail on Amazon