Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review: Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire by Matthew Quinn

Guest post by Kieran Colfer.
If books are food for the brain, then a short story collection is like a buffet table. Small, bite-sized portions of stories the reader can pick and choose from (or eat them all!), enough to whet the appetite, hopefully enough to give the reader a taste for other tales by the same author.  As with all buffet tables, not everything on the menu may be to a particular person's taste, but if one particular morsel doesn't satisfy, you can easily move on to the next one.

So, how does Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire by Matthew Quinn fare on our culinary tour of the world of fiction? Will we still be hungry at the end or will it be enough to sate our palates? Read on and find out!

The book is divided into ten stories, of roughly even length:

"Coil Gun" - The Cold War between the USA and the Afrikaaner Confederation has turned hot, and an American missile silo commander has to engage in a duel of wits with an intelligence officer on the other side. At stake? The world!

"Lord Giovanni's Daughter" - A princess is being held captive by the evil snake-men. Who can rescue her before the snake-king has his wicked way with her?

"Nicor" - Every Viking has his coming of age, his first ever raid. A young Dane experiences something terrifyingly out of the ordinary on his.

"Melon Heads" - Urban Legends are just that, legends. Aren't they?

"Picking up Plans in Palma" - It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out job, retrieving the plans for the new Confederation wonder-weapon. it was also supposed to be a job for a trained spy though...

"Illegal Alien" - Sometimes when you're trying to cross the border illegally, being caught by the authorities isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.

"The Beast of Bosphorus" - A Lovecraftian tale in a very non-Lovecraftian environment - can this strange and unsettling book help the Emir in his war with the hated Venetians?

"I am the Wendigo" - There are two sides to every monster story - here, the beast gets his turn in the limelight for once.

"Lord of the Dolorous Tower" - In a land of magic devastated by a long-ago cataclysm, a couple of young adventurers decide to see if the old tales are true.

"Westernmost Throne" - On the eve of the Presidential election, a young campaign assistant finds out that her boss isn't the man she thought he was.

Some of the buffet items here are like tasters for the main course where you are eager to find out more - why are the Afrikaaners and the USA in a cold war for example, and how? Who is our strange barbarian adventurer, and why does he want to build a library? These feel like they deserve a book of its own, if not a series. Some of the stories however seem like the portions are a bit too small for their own good, and could maybe do with a bit more fleshing out, like the "Wendigo" and the "Lord of the Dolorous Tower". Each story, however,  has its own little twist or subversion on what you would normally expect in a story of its ilk, and while at first glance it seems to be a rather eclectic collection of tales with no common threads, there are thematic links between each story that bring the whole thing together.

So, in short, should you decide to dine at this table of fictitious delicacies, you are sure to come away with something that is to your taste....

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