I have to admit to being a bad boy. I had heard a lot about the Four Horsemen Universe but I hadn’t tried it. This is a bad thing for a guy like me. I love military SF. I love stories about mercenaries. I freaking love mecha combat and I can’t get enough of plucky little humanity stories. It was obvious that I needed an in to this universe and so I jumped at the chance to get a copy of A Fistful of Credit, an anthology edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey. I figured to be thoroughly entertained and to learn about this awesome universe. I wasn’t disappointed on either count. This anthology really rocks. I’ll get to each story in a bit, but I wanted to share a few thoughts on the anthology overall first.
Each story starts with notes about the author. I find this to be excellent. I love indie authors but I haven’t had time to read them all. The information about each author, what other things they’ve had written and published and where to find them was awesome. I’m not promising to read the all (I, like most of you, have limited resources of both time and money) but I’ll definitely get to a few at least. So good work there. Chuck Gannon’s preface is pretty awesome too, as it provides a gateway for those of us (yup, guilty) who haven’t had a chance to read the stories previously. I really wish I hadn’t need it, but I did.
I also want to get into the organization of the anthology for just a second. The first story is called “The First Alpha” by Mark Wandrey. I’ll get to a review of the story itself in a second, but for now I want to express a bit of frustration. This is an anthology set in the Four Horsemen Universe. The premise of the entire series is that humanity has been introduced to a wider universe full of aliens and can only survive by selling their services as mercenaries. When I opened this e-book I wanted to walk face first into a kick-ass mercenary story. I wanted a battlefield with bodies and explosions. What I got was a crime thriller. It’s a good story (more on that next paragraph) but I really don’t think that it was the right tale to kick off the anthology with. I was a bit disappointed here because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Overall, it didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the collection all that much but it was a bit jarring. Other than that, things seemed to flow smoothly, but honestly if I were to read AFoC again, I’d probably skip this one and come back to it.’
“The First Alpha” by Mark Wandrey was a look into life on Earth in the Four Horsemen Universe (4HU). Things on humanity’s home planet are not good. People are broke to the point where most of them can’t afford a simple breakfast out. Crime is rampant and infrastructure is crumbling. Our “hero” is a guy named Zeke. He’s sneaky. He’s resourceful. He’s got a plan. This was an entertaining story with a surprise ending that I never saw coming but that made sense once I read it. Overall, I really enjoyed it once I got past the fact that it wasn’t a merc story.
“Breach of Contract” by Terry Mixon is a detective story. It gives us an insight into the workings of law and justice in the 4HU and it really rocks. Of course, I’m partial to story featuring ass-kicking attractive women, but this one has plenty of action and just enough back story to hold everything together without bogging the story down into long reminisces that would make it drag. The tech is awesome. The search for vengeance is fun and the daring of our heroes Jackie and Anton make “Breach of Contract” a winner.
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