As a rule, I don’t generally review anthologies that contain my work. I’m making an exception for Triumph Over Tragedy because 1, I’m not receiving an financial remuneration and 2, profits from the anthology go directly to the Red Cross to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy, so I want to encourage people to buy the book!
Triumph, edited by RT Kaelin, features 41 stories by a variety of speculative fiction authors. Some of them are big names–Marion Zimmer Bradley, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Silverberg–but most are new or midlist authors. The stories vary widely in themes, writing styles, and genres. As with any collection, there were a few stories I loved, a few I didn’t, and a lot that fell somewhere in between, though the effect was exaggerated by the staggering number of stories included in the anthology. I’m going to focus here on the stories I loved.
I have to start with Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s “Death Between the Stars.” Zimmer Bradley is widely considered to be one of the great classical speculative fiction masters, and this story proves why. It’s one of those stories that manages to be both small in scope–detailing the brief encounter of a human attempting to share a berth on a starship with an alien despite cultural restrictions against human-alien contact–and which manages to also explore universal issues, especially bigotry. The ending manages to be both satisfying and chilling, with the feel of a parable without being preachy.
“The Pope of the Chimps,” by Robert Silverberg, is another masterful story with a tight scope but universal implications. When a chimp researcher dies, the chimps develop mythology about him. Soon they’ve invented an entire religious hierarchy and the surviving researchers are left wondering whether they should halt the development of religion among their animal charges–and how to do it. The story is a brilliant meditation on spirituality, religion, and humanity.
I also really enjoyed Steven Saus‘s story, “The Burning Servant.” (FYI: Steve is a close personal friend and has published quite a bit of my work as Alliteration Ink. I just happen to also really enjoy his writing.) This tale of civil war demon-summoning and human sacrifice starts off dropping tantalizing hints but quickly builds to a horrific conclusion. If you don’t like horror, you should probably skip this story, but if you like a good scare, you’ll probably find it very enjoyable.
My favorite story in the anthology, however, was probably “Sargent Argent’s Moment in the Sun,” by Rob Rogers. Part of my love for it stems from the fact that it was one of few humorous stories in a collection that was, overall, very dark and serious (and I include my own story in that). “Sargent Argent” is the story of two friends, one of whom dies…and comes back. What would you do if your best friend returned from the grave, with newly minted vampire super-powers? Rogers weaves a tale that is charming and heartwarming, with a good dose of laughter and a killer ending. I’ll definitely be inviting him to submit to any future anthologies of mine that would benefit from a dose of humor.
The book concludes with another excellent story, Timothy Zahn‘s “The Ring.” Nick Powell stumbles upon a ring in a pawn shop, and is suddenly inundated with riches. He quickly comes to realize, however, that those around him are paying a terrible price for his success. Nick can’t figure out how to remove the ring, or undo the curse, but with a horrible fate in store for his fiancee, he had better figure it out, and fast!
There are a number of other excellent stories in Triumph, but these were my favorites. The ebook is only $6.99, so the anthology is well-worth the price even if you only like a handful of the stories. And don’t forget, 100% of the profits go to benefit the Red Cross. Though Hurricane Sandy is no longer in the public eye, cleanup continues, and for those who lost homes and loved ones, life will never be the same again. Buying a copy of Triumph is a great way to help them while also helping yourself to some great stories.