The Temple of Beauty contains five short stories – four of science fiction worthy of Asimov’s magazine and one of the fantasy genre. These stories are outstandingly rendered, concise and meaningful, containing themes of religious extremism, social outcry, and unlikely heroism, along the simple beauty of existence. The author’s expertise with vocabulary renders him an exceptional wordsmith. It isn’t often that I am so excited to read a book that I want to ignore everything else in my busy, creative life. I absolutely loved these stories. “Intraflection to Kill” and “The Commercial Agent,” in particular, gave me supreme gratification for the act of reading. There are no wasted words. The imagery let me stand on alien worlds and watch the scenes unfold in my imagination, true releases from reality.
5 Stars – Page-turning intrigue, humor, and action in perfectly sized doses.
Other Science Fiction and Fantasy short story collections
Water in Dublin is in short supply, mysteriously vanishing from lakes and rivers. Michael and Evie witness a horde of glowing green frogs during a boat ride on the river and follow the creatures into the underground.
This tale of two worlds colliding, the world on the Earth and the world below it, echoes the trials of going through adolescence. The children are growing up and getting older and are expected to start behaving like adults. At the same time, kids still want to be kids. This includes learning to cope with difficult emotions.
Written for the reading level of middle-grade, this adventure shows the reader the new experiences of traveling and deals with the tumult of emotions one must face in making tough decisions. Evie and Michael must use both their kid-like sensibilities and their newly acquired adult skills to complete their mission to help the people of the Coreland and their home.
3 Stars – A suitable story for middle-grade readers with valuable displays of coming of age wisdom.
Twenty Twelve is a collection of short stories (some a bit longer than “short,” sneaking up on the size of a novella) written to study various forms of finality and transition. Some stories bring the end of the known world through something supernatural, such as demons, and other’s bring the end of one person’s world through a seemingly small yet drastic change in the ways of the world.
These stories examine human reactions to adverse events of varying proportions by giving us insight into the internal conflict between what may be the truth and what is socially acceptable to think and do. The author does a wonderful job of asking an off-the-wall “what if” and supplying a very plausible environment in which to study the results of the experiment.
5 Stars: For the lovers of “what if.”
This easy-going read pays homage to Doctor Who and his companions and a bit of the SyFy show Eureka, with sprinklings of amazing technology and a smattering of magic. Dane Monday takes upon himself the constant protection of New Avalon, a city with a quirky history and complicated present. He keeps the arcane out of public view of the mundane. And in the process, he finds a young, doting female sidekick to help him succeed with his missions.
Bordering on the absurd, this geeky adventure runs the gambit, beginning with a mad scientist and his killer robots. The reader can visualize everything like it’s happening on a silver screen, an action-packed plot filled with fights, explosions, and a fast-talking male lead. Dane Monday survives and succeeds with an uncanny amount of luck – and a lot of help from his old friends around the city.
3 Stars – A fun, quirky, easy-to-read adventure, great for a brain vacation.
Souls are sent to Heaven and Hell everyday, but sometimes a soul is sent in the wrong direction. A dedicated group of specialists possess the skills to go after those lost souls and bring them back from Hell. However, the task is anything but easy.
Sent to find a young girl’s soul, Getter wades through the ever-changing modes of Hell using a half-magical, half-technological tool known as a Finder. Along the way, he joins a fellow Retriever named Sneaker and an old-timer known as Destiny. While trying to get their jobs complete and make it our of Hell alive-the place is rife with demons and dangerous soul-eating creatures-they discover that the realm of the Underworld is close to an upheaval of power. Mephisto is gunning for Satan’s throne.
The construction of the book is complicated. Hell is so full of terrifying horrors, the senses are drown in misery and gore. Periodically, the reader is thrust into character histories, showing the intricacy of circumstances that led each one to their chosen occupation. These back-stories don’t often give a break from the over-stimulating scenery of the Underworld, for each contains it’s own tragedies. This novel is not for the weak of heart or stomach.
3 Stars – Over-stimulating in some aspects, but well-formulated.
Appropriately titled, this collection of short stories takes the reader to several corners and centuries of the world, from Vikings to Pirates to contemporary characters in modern settings. Tailored with obvious affection for the written word and with conscientious word choice, the stories capture the reader’s imagination with graphic details of physical battles and the delicate touch of describing inner moral conflicts.
To select a favorite in this collection, I found the last installment, “There are No White Knights” the most appealing. The ritual battle between two knights of the court becomes a morale battle between two men, one who enjoys slaughter for slaughter’s sake and the other who slaughters for righteous purpose.
4 Stars – An author with affection for the written word.