Science Fiction Double Feature
This pair of novellas comes courtesy of Zombie Pirate Publishing, and indeed the stories themselves come from the publishing house's founders and resident editors, Sam M. Phillips (Into the Eye) and Adam Bennett (Phosphorus).
Since they come as a pair it is necessary of me to review each in turn before giving an overall impression, and I've chosen the order they appear between the covers.
I was a little worried at first that the main character was a bit of a Mary-Sue, the sort of character that could handle every situation thrown at them. Happily, Dietrich has a bit more depth than that, and just about every situation is a challenge. As a warrior monk he might have come out of a D&D character rolling session, but the world he has to live in is what makes a character important anyway, and this world is holistic and twisted and definitely dangerous.
The story zips along at a nice pace, and we're never quite sure where it's taking us - but we're most definitely sure it's taking us somewhere exciting.
There are some great characters in this story, the world Bennett has created is interesting, convoluted and twisted (in that way that readers enjoy), and you know there is much more to this story - more before it begins, more after the last word. It leaves you wanting to pick up the next episode in Dietrich's life, if there ever is one.
Into The Eye
I've given this 4.5 stars, but only marked it down because the editing could have been a bit tighter. The story itself is a masterpiece. The main character has a history we want to know about, and like Phosphorus, the story doesn't end with the last word.
The main character, Alberic Americ is a down-on-his luck miner trying to get back into the game. There's a lot of sympathy for him (from us), but also a hint that he may have been the victim of his own undoing. The story that develops is both intriguing and exciting, yet also puzzling. The puzzle comes from his unknown past, making us beg to know what it is. Phillips lets us in on the secrets that haunt Americ in tasty little gobbets that leave us begging for more.
This is a story that could easily have been woven into a novel, but Phillips has a keen eye and knows when to leave things shorter. It has more than enough to tell the story, yet not enough to overstay its welcome.
The world that Phillips has created is one of those places that is familiar enough we can grasp most of it without thinking about it, yet unique enough that it makes us sit up and pay attention. There is even a potential plot-hole that he addresses by posing a simple question. There, plot-hole addressed and filled and tantalisingly held up as the potential premise for another story.
You might be under the impression that I thought less of Phosphorus than I did of Into The Eye. I didn't. I thought they were both great stories extremely well told. I highly recommend this book - in fact, it would make a great birthday present or stocking filler at Christmas. Novellas, being shorter in length than novels, are easy and fast to digest, and in this case you get two.