This free-wheeling anthology offers a variety of characters, settings, and genres.
At first glance, the novellas in Book 2 of this third installment of a series seem disparate enough to be deemed eclectic. The six range in length and tone. The collection—edited by Lockwood (Frontal Matter, 2019, etc.) and Kastner (Running Wild Novella Anthology: Volume 3, Book 1, 2019, etc.)—opens with Circuits End by Rasmenia Massoud. The story focuses on a tough-talking painter working a dead-end job at a Colorado circuit factory, trying to make her way in life after breaking up with her longtime boyfriend. Then, readers take a sharp turn into the fantastical with an eerie fairy tale called Doctor Porchiat’s Dream by Frankie Rollins that follows the adventures of a quirky physician in a superstitious town as he chases scientific proof of the soul. That spell is quickly broken by the cutting-edge modernity of Kastner’s Newly Minted Wings: Craig’s List Nikky, which follows a PR maven called Nicole (nicknamed Nikky) who resurrects the careers of desperate Craigslist posters with extravagant stunts. She must reassess her life once her wealthy parents cut her off and she gets the chance to work with one of her idols. Nicole’s privileged world is quickly replaced by the tender contemplation of Kenneth Holt’s The Cups That Hold, about the unlikely connection forged between a black groundskeeper and his white teenage charge during a summer job in 1977. After that, readers must contend with Patrick Breheny’s Like a Human, a futuristic trip featuring a robot called Howie. He believes he can ingratiate himself with humans enough to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle and one day conquer the world. The energetic collection closes with Ace Boggess’ Somewhat Misunderstood, a satirical, biting thought exercise that considers how readers would respond to the seeming reemergence of Jesus. Taken together, what connects these mostly engaging stories are a sympathy and humor for life’s outcasts—from a down-on-his-luck kid in the ’70s to an overly ambitious robot in the near future. While some of the tales, like Doctor Porchiat’s Dream, make full use of the novella form by deftly exploring the perspectives of various characters, others, such as Newly Minted Wings, feel half formed. Wings ends on a cliffhanger after six chapters of minor character development. Still, the anthology is always entertaining and lives up to its title.
A collection that delivers a strange and ultimately satisfying ride.