A collection of seven science fiction short stories.
Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, Kindle
The writer describes his stories as similar to Twilight Zone episodes, and I agree. All of them have twists, and not necessarily just in the end, and a few of them are pretty brutal. Most of them feel like they are short and the endings can be abrupt. They aren’t connected and seem to be set in different story universes.
In the first story, “Shooting Star”, Captain Evan Grant is supposed to go on a routine research run around the Earth. Instead, he’s persuaded to try to rescue an automated cargo ship which is returning from Mars with a valuable cargo. The ship has stopped transmitting and Grant has to try to board it and fix it.
Grant is a devoted father and husband, and he wants to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that turns out to be quite difficult.
The set up for “Rescue Mission” is pretty familiar. The Commander of a space ship is sent on a plant to rescue downed pilots. The planet has rich supplies but also a native population who are considered low-tech barbarians. The Commander’s second-in-command is young and impatient and wants to just wipe out any natives who come too close. This is a problem, of course. There’s a nice contrast between the older and more experienced Commander who is tired of wars and the gung-ho youngster.
“The Journal” was quite different from the previous two. In it, a group of young male students steal a journal from one of their student buddies and find out much more than they thought. Unfortunately, the story also left a lot of unanswered questions in favor of quick twists.
In “All that Glitters…” the crew of a mining star ship finds a previously unknown planet which is rich in minerals, especially gold. The Captain wants to take full advantage of the clueless natives in order to further his own fortunes and career.
This story also has a conflict with the captain and his second-in-command but it’s otherwise different from the second story.
“Annihilation” is set on a submarine which is sent to a long mission.
“Act of God” is perhaps the most chilling of the stories. A colony far away from everyone else has encountered a disaster which destroyed most of the food supply. The administrator has to resort to drastic actions to keep people alive.
In “Eye of the Beholder” two history buffs are looking for ancient treasure.
All of the stories can be read without any knowledge about other science fiction stories or concepts.
Even though the stories are short, the characters are mostly established well and quickly. Of course, that means that the conflicts between them aren’t terribly nuanced, but they are dramatic and so entertaining. The stories are designed to be uncomfortable and not comfort reads. Some of them have also minor horror elements. I think that if you’ve read similar stories before they might not be surprising – I was genuinely surprised by only one of the stories. However, they were still quite entertaining. The last two, “Act of God” and “Eye of the Beholder” are my favorites. The last one teases us with just when and where the two main characters are and what they are actually looking for.
The ebook has also samples of Byers’ two other books, “Arctic Fire” and “Catalyst”.