I like free books. So when I was alerted to the presence of a free PDF copy of this brand-new anthology, also available in print form, I was excited. I don’t get around to reading e-zines as often as I should, and there are some amazing stories one can read for free out there. This is a collection of fifteen of the best from several years of Lone Star Stories, and it’s available for download here. I do, of course, encourage you to buy a print copy if you like the PDF. Eric Marin pays the contributors out of his own pocket, and it would be great if he could recoup some of the costs. (Or, ideally, make millions of dollars and publish all sorts of things, but I’ll aim for a more realisic goal.)
The stories include: “Wolf Night,” by Martha Wells; “Seasonal Work,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; “Janet, Meet Bob,” by Gavin J. Grant; “The Great Conviction of Tia Inez,” by M. Thomas; “Angels of a Desert Heaven,” by Marguerite Reed; “The Disembowler,” by Ekaterina Sedia; “A Night in Electric Squidland,” by Sarah Monette; “Thread: A Triptych,” by Catherynne M. Valente; “The Frozen One,” by Tim Pratt; “Dragon Hunt,” by Sarah Prineas; “Manuscript Found Written in the Paw Prints of a Stoat,” by Samantha Henderson; “Giant,” by Stephanie Burgis; “When the Rain Comes,” by Josh Rountree; “The Hangman isn’t Hanging,” by Jay Lake; and “The Oracle Opens One Eye,” by Patricia Russo.
First, I have to talk about the high quality of the PDF. I’m assuming it’s a direct copy of the insides of the book, and I’m very happy when e-books look just as good as the print form. Mr. Marin (or his book designer) used drop-caps (big letters at the beginning of each story that go below the base of the first line), a lovely font, and pencil or charcoal drawings at the beginning of each story. Each page has either the name of the author or the name of the story, depending on whether it’s a left or right page, and overall, it was definitely a pleasure to read. I wish more e-book publishers would take such care with their e-books as designers do with their print volumes.
The title of the anthology is a bit misleading; not all the stories are set in Texas. Actually, I can’t think that any of them are. A few are set in the Southwest, and a couple are set in the Old West, but those who might be a little bit put off by the idea that it’s a book of stories set in one location need not worry. However, of those that were set in the Southwest, some were my favorite. What I felt was the most substantial story in the book — and incidentally my favorite — was “Angels of a Desert Heaven,” by Marguerite Reed. It involves a young, moderately self-destructive musician who apparently has been chosen in some way by the Native American (Indian) powers, and the woman who is trying to help him with his situation. The story’s emotional depth was breathtaking, and I hope to read more by the author in the near future.
Other stories were certainly interesting and of note; another one of my favorites was “The Disembowler,” which took on the relationship between souls, machinery, and human beings. I thought the setting was wonderful, and I quite enjoyed the resolution. I also really loved the first story, which actually is set in the old west. It was the perfect story with which to open the anthology, I think; it grabbed me and entertained me quite a bit. Sarah Monette’s club-set story had a good setting, interesting characters, and a great plot. Were she to try a modern-set fantasy story, I would be very excited to read it. “Dragon Hunt,” one of the rare secondary-world fantasy stories in the collection, had some interesting twists to it, and although I’d never heard of the author, I’ll be on the lookout for more of her works.
In short, this is a lovely, varied collection of stories by some well-known authors and some not-so-well-known ones, and I’d highly recommend it for any speculative-fiction reader. There is much to discover, and each story — as well as the actual physical collection itself — is a pleasure to read. Well done, to the editor and publisher, as well as each of the authors. 5/5 stars.