I’ve been meaning to write about Twenty Epics for a while now, but I wasn’t sure when it would be out. Well, now it’s out (it’s available on Lulu at the moment, and I understand will be out on Amazon and other books sites reasonably soon), so now I can talk to you about it. I was given a copy by its co-editor David Moles at Wiscon (the fabulous Susan Marie Groppi is the other editor), and I have to say that the book saved me from going absolutely bugnut insane while my plane was parked on the airport tarmac for three hours, awaiting its clearance for the 28-minute flight to Chicago.
The conceit of the book is that each of the stories is supposed to be epic in sweep: armies of the dead going off to battle, incredible travels through time, quasi-demonic creatures in a hard-fought battle for the fate of the universe, and so on and so forth. As promised, there are twenty such stories, and they run the full range of fantasy and SF tropes. Some of the stories take themselves seriously, some not so much (there’s even a “choose your own adventure”-like story for those who like to build their own epics).
By and large I came away from the anthology quite satisfied; with a book of twenty stories there are bound to be a couple of them that don’t work me, and indeed there were three that didn’t. But that left 17 which I thought worked to varying levels of success, which is a good ratio. The one that worked best for me was Sandra McDonald’s “Life Sentence,” which put a particularly poignant spin on the karmic wheel; structurally it’s like a snowball, starting off slow and accreting emotional weight until it bowls you over. I thought it was excellent. I also particularly liked Chris Barzak’s “The Creation of Birds” and Tim Pratt’s “Cup and Table,” the former of which I found delicately designed and the latter of which was all X-Men-ny, but in a good way. Of course, with an anthology which ones work for you and which ones don’t will depend on you, but as the editors, David and Susan have intelligently laid out a smorgasbord of stories; I expect there’s something here for everyone.
On Lulu it’s available both in a print version and as a pdf (the book is $20; the pdf $7.61); I think it’s worth checking out, and if you’re unsure the pdf is a good option, not just because it’s cheaper but because most of the stories are short enough to be read comfortably onscreen. In any event, check it out and let me know what you think.