Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Answering Review Request: Dark Expanse, Surviving the Collapse

Paul M. Joy Jr, the  Head of Community Relations Deorc Enterprise, asked me to read an anthology of science fiction stories. It is called  Dark Expanse, Surviving the Collapse and it's a collection of stories that share a background and setting but are otherwise unrelated. A race of beings known as the Zyxlar created this vast interstellar empire and then disappeared without warning. Being the micro managers they were, this caused quite a shake up. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.


Being an anthology, there is no overall plot. A couple of them reference the myth arc of why the Zyxlar disappeared, where they went and what they're planning, but that is all. As it becoming standard, I will only discuss a couple in brief and give my opinion of the work as a whole.

Most of these are great. They have this solid plot that is quickly set up, built up, executed and resolved satisfactorily.  It's not easy to do that in a short story format. There are some exceptions, stories that leave too much hanging for once thing, or stories that feel too thin/flat on characterization, or too bareboned in their plots. However, these are indeed exceptions.

Some of them feel like complete stories ("Dominos Falling" and "Fires of Night") and others like the start of a story ("Hellfire Unleashed").  A third group could have moved on if they wanted, but as they are now they a sense of thematic completion, if not narrative completion ("Ten Suns" and "Castles of Night"). Of those that feel like the start of a story, that is a compliment; Hellfire Unleashed leaves off at the point of its greatest world building potential. I wanted to read more of that plot line.
Many of them also incorporate the Short Story Twist. Some of them do it better than others. Some don't use it at all. 
Some of them make great use of meaningful echoes and other repeating narrative tropes, with others it feels lame.
"Fires of Night" is fun, deep, and doesn't pull some last minute twist. It also has this Dececptive Disciple, Master-Apprentice Team that is usually a martial arts story angle, not a space intrigue thing.

"Gorlack the Destroyer's All You Can Eat Adventure" has a great degree of humor. It can vary from Black Comedy to Ironic Humor and then twist around and and become pretty scary.

"Betrayal, Clear as Kanzai Glass" is fascinating in terms of a species origin story.


Characters on the whole are good throughout the stories. It was a fun exercise to determine what species the protagonist is in each story. It is not always obvious and you can't assume it to be human. With one or two exceptions, they and the others in the story are created to be distinct individiuals isntead of simple view ports for the story.

The protagonist from "They Cannot Scare Me With Their Empty Spaces" is complicated a character (also a Silicate, by the way). At first he sounds like some dim witted muscle guy that's part of a comedy act, then he goes out and does some insightful philosophizing without meaning to. You can say he is both dumb and wise at the same time.

Chaplain  Theodore from "A Small and Secret Freedom" is also one of my favorites. He's like this perfect mix of Chaotic Good, Church Militant, and Good Shepherd. In other words, he's a badass that doesn't need to have bulging muscles and a huge laser chainsaw; a mental strength that is quietly dignified and heroic.


It looks good. No spelling or grammar problems

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse" a B+

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