Three of the stories were enjoyable reading. Andrew Tisbert’s “Waking the City” is a far-future story in which a rivalry exists between people living in a city, those in a small town, and those living in the jungle between. The main character Kuyo is proclaimed by his mentor Geo to be the likely person to seize control of the city, but things are not so clear, especially when Kuyo’s best friend Castor seems to be associated with the beasts in the jungle.
“Fork You” is a terrible title which I am surprised the editor did not change. But it is a good fantasy about a wild girl in the thrall of two ancient magicians who is adopted by a large, inbred family of hillbillies who begin the process of taming her. Their 30 acres contain a huge, ancient tree which seems to have some type of magical power itself. A lot of clichéd ideas, but the story is done well for most of its length, only faltering a bit at its conclusion.
Jason K. Chapman’s “The Singers of Rhodes” is set on a huge alien space station which rival groups of humans are exploring. One group is the Uni, a military group which has previously invaded and basically destroyed the civilizations on several human colonies, and is threatening the other groups on the station. Inhabiting the space station’s inner walls are huge grasshopper-like beings who do not speak, but sing, and are considered unintelligent by most humans on the space station. But, of course, the narrator and reader suspects otherwise. This story is obviously strongly-influenced by C.J. Cherryh’s Union-Alliance stories, which is an unfortunate comparison since it cannot possibly live up to that inspiration, although the story is enjoyable reading.
My favorite story in the book though is the longest story, nearly double the length of any other, Alan Smale’s “Delusion’s Song.” It is set in Victorian England in the small town of Haworth which has been mysteriously cut off from all surrounding civilization, and is instead set in the midst of endless fields and mountains. The story is centered around a family whose father Patrick is a preacher struggling to maintain the values of a town whose citizens are slowly sinking into an uncivilized state. His son Branwell is a drunk and drug addict ever since his older sister Maria died at boarding school several years ago, and he has antagonized both the women and the men who are determined to teach Branwell a lesson. Patrick also has three surviving daughters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, each with different strengths: Charlotte has taken over the role of head of the family with their mother and two elder sisters dead; Emily is strong-willed and helps the men patrol the perimeter of the town lest occasional wild stragglers enter it; Anne is learning to be a midwife. All three sisters love books and fiction, and spend much of the story discussing with each other the novels they each hope to write someday.
I have probably given enough spoilers already, but most readers will realize the true identity of the family early in the novella, and then watch their lives develop in the midst of the town’s traumatic situation. This is a very strong novella which should have gotten recognition as one of the best stories of 2009.
Overall, I recommend Panverse One and look forward to other volumes in the series.