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Title: RealLies: A Zharmae Collection of Short Works
Edited by: Max Avalon
Year Published: 2013
My review of RealLies - Part I: Curiosity
Synopsis: Enter a world where fantasy and reality collide, where seeking answers only raises more questions, and the paths you choose can change everything you have ever known. The pages in this collection will send you on an adventure into the unknown to discover the truth about yourself and the world around you.
Create and destroy destinies when facts and reasons fail in Robson's "Walk on By." Question reality with Lisabeth in "Onward Into Dark," where dreams come to life and the past returns to haunt those searching to escape the truth. Don't believe in escapism? Join the characters of Pike's "The Wolf of Descarta," as they face reality head-on and struggle against wild fantasies that eclipse life itself.
But be careful, our dear readers. One bite of "reality" and you might wish you could wrap the illusions around your eyes once more because as you will find, the truth lies.
Review: Reviewing anthologies is always weird for me. Should I review all of the stories individually, or should I review the thing as a whole? Since this one is split into two sections, each containing 7 or 8 stories, I think I'll review the stories individually but collected in two parts. Yesterday, I posted my review for the stories in "Part I: Curiosity." Today, we have the stories from "Part II: Control!"
1. Crossroads of Sin by D.H. Aire: In this story, time and reality are threaded together to create a world where several timelines exist at once, and some must be sacrificed in order to save others. At least, I think that's what happens. This story was choppy and confusing and I really have no idea why things happened or what Xin was really trying to save. Something about aliens and Christopher Columbus? And why were there chapters in an 18 page story? This just was not my thing. 1/5
2. Walk on By by Jenny Robson: If you lived in a country where contraceptives were frowned upon and HIV ran rampant, what would you do if you found yourself with the disease? This story follows one woman as she exacts her revenge on the slime balls of the world for raping girls like her and giving them the virus. I think it's something that's a real issue and needs to be dealt with, and this short gives a pretty decent insight into what it might be like to live such a life and then be judged by "privleged" people. It was easy to follow and made me think, so a 3.5/5.
3. The Ghost Machine by Ellen Denton: This story tells about time travel and the impending destruction of the world via a virus aboard a meteorite destined to slam into the Mojave Desert. I actually enjoyed the first 3/4 of this story, and thought it was pretty well done. There was humor and sci-fi and believable characters. But then the ending was just meh and felt rushed or maybe just too convenient. We didn't really need to bring real ghosts into it, did we? Had the ending been done better, or maybe differently, I think I would have enjoyed it more. 4/5
4. Holofied by Mariev Finnegan: An aging gossip columnist who vlogs using futuristic technology finds herself pondering the meaning of life and love. And I really did not connect with her or her story at all. Everything was too convenient, and she just got on my nerves most of the time. And even though there's one event that's pivotal in Gloria's life and to the plot, I thought it was totally unnecessary that we had to relive it with her at least a dozen times. This story was way too long and kind of confusing and didn't hold my attention at all... I even found myself skipping ahead to try and get to something that I cared about reading. An interesting concept, but not well executed. 1/5
5. The Ghost in the Sword by Wol-Vrieg Jesuto: A magical sword, an animal farmer who is unsure of his masculinity, and a tale of revenge should all add up to make an excellent story, right? Well, this one starts out great - the sword and the reincarnation and afterlife and revenge all point towards a story with a moral. But then all of a sudden things get weird and I'm not sure what happens and I don't think there was any lesson. If this had gone in a different direction, I think it would have been much better. I think a 3/5 sounds reasonable?
6. Onward into Dark by Zach Lisabeth: I think this story is about a group of people being selected to go on a journey to another planet, but I'm not really sure. There's talk of a background check and characters deceiving those in charge and dreams, but I honestly have no idea what was going on. Besides that, it's not written poorly or anything... it isn't choppy or all over the place or anything. I think there might just be too much dialogue or too many flashbacks or something. A 1.5/5 because the plot is so unclear.
7. The Wolf of Descarta by Daniel Park: I'm pretty sure this story is about a virtual reality game/setting that can be played across planets in which Blamus/Jaren Reese pretends to be the Wolf Knight. Stories and books about virtual reality games have got to be really well done in order to catch my attention because Killobyte by Piers Anthony is one of my favorite books ever and kind of ruined other books with similar themes for me. I think this story has a lot of potential, but just seemed like a cheap copy of Killobyte. I think this story would be a lot better for anyone who hasn't read a good virtual reality book. Unfortunately, for me, it's a 3/5.
So, overall, this half of the anthology has an average of about 2.5/5. As a whole, I think this anthology really had potential but falls short with sloppy writing and stories that don't flow very well or capture the attention of the reader. I think there's an audience out there for these stories, but it just wasn't me. For me, sci-fi/fantasy stories (especially short ones) need to be able to grab my attention within the first couple of paragraphs, and it just didn't happen for me here. 2.5/5 for the whole collection.