Book Review: Reading 5X5 (Writers’ Edition)

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Book Review: Reading 5X5 (Writers’ Edition) Edited by B. Morris Allen
(Metaphorosis Publishing)

Reading 5X5 is an anthology of SFF short stories, and I got the digital ARC from Netgalley.

The foreward by B Morris Allen says, “five stories, five times”. This is what the book is. The most interesting thing about the short stories in this book is that five SFF sub-genres were selected viz. (1) Contemporary Fantasy, (2) Soft Science Fiction (3) Other (this include genre bending), (4) Hard Science Fiction, and (5) High Fantasy. For each sub-genre sets of 5 writers were selected. There was a single brief for each sub-genre. So the five writers had to create stories from the same brief. This translates into twenty five wonderful short stories.

What is most important aspect of this book alongwith the stories is a write-up by the authors as to how they approached, pursued and developed the brief into a story. And what better than to have a peep into a writers creative and imaginitive process. The book at its end contains these briefs in details. Besides, the money raised were donated to Clayton Memorial Fund which is a fund for medical emergency of SFF writers in Pacific Northwest.

This anthology is collection of varied stories, each having their own merits and hook points. There were some very good stories and some very good writing and imagination in each of the stories. Some of these stories were outstanding. Obviously, everyone has their favourite subgenres in SFF. I particularly liked the stories in Contemporary Fantasy and Soft Science FIction.

There is only one thing I would say regarding the categorisation. For example when I think of Hard Science Fiction, then books like “The Martian” by Andy Weir comes in mind. However the stories in the hard science fiction sub-genre felt more like science fiction in the tradition of Star Trek. Take this for example from the Hard SF, “One of the Cities”. The starting of the story is: “The City of Ionos Prime hung in its orbit like a ripe peach. The urge to pluck it overwhelmed us; to rid our cosmos of rot, expose and exterminate the source of so much suffering…” The stories were obviously good, and definitely I enjoyed reading it. But the sub-genre of hard and soft science fiction makes it a bit uncomfortable in terms of different kinds of expectations that they raise. I would think that other than hard science fiction, which technically uses the known science for the story purpose, all else is “science fiction” with no prefixes.

Overall, a very good anthology. Reading the experiences of authors in planning and writing the stories were an added wow factor in this book. Definitely one for keeps.

Copyright © Anup Mukherjee

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