Peek into the mind and dreams of award winning editor and author Jennifer Brozek. Travel from the weird west to the hidden worlds of Kendrick all the way to the far reaches of space. This collection contains twenty previously published short stories and includes the brand new Kember Empire story “Found on the Body of a Solider.” Enjoy your journey and don’t forget your survival gear. Apocalypse Girl is waiting.
Includes a foreword by science fiction author Jody Lynn Nye.
When I was contacted about reviewing Jennifer Brozek’s new short story collection Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, there were two things that sprung to mind: I remembered hearing her on the SF Signal podcast and really enjoying the episodes and I remembered reading her Valdemar story in Under the Vale and liking her angle of looking at those who are rejected for Collegium instead of the ones who are Chosen. So I was pleased to get the opportunity to read more by Brozek and discover what else she had written. It turns out Brozek is a versatile writer as at home in fantasy as she is in military SF or the Weird West and everything in-between.
The stories in Apocalypse Girl Dreaming can be split into four groups. The first are the stories set in Brozek’s Mowry universe. These are the stories relating the adventures of Eric Hamblin and Joseph Lamb, two gun slingers in the Weird West. I really enjoyed this setting and the characters of Hamblin and Lamb. Over the four Mowry stories included in this collection you get a real sense of who both of these men are and there is even some character development over the course of the stories, not just within each separate story. It’s a setting I’d love to read more in.
The second group are stories set in the Kendrick universe, which is also the setting for Brozek’s urban fantasy series The Karen Wilson Chronicles, book four of which is due to be published this March. There are only two Kendrick stories in the collection and they are both very different, filling in background to the main universe rather than linking together closely. I enjoyed these stories as they were entertaining in their own right, but they didn’t give me the clear sense of the setting that the Mowry stories did.
The third group are the stories set in the Kember Empire universe, which is Brozek’s military SF space universe setting. And I adored it. The stories share clear connections, there are five Kember Empire stories in total, and create a really interesting world which I would love to explore more. I really loved the character of Natara Kintares who is a young space cadet and everything you’d expect from such a character; she’s fun, headstrong, somewhat reckless, and very brave. I’d love to see a novel starring her at some point, because I need more Natara and Kember in my life.
The last group are nine separate stories, though two of these are tie-in stories to Mercedes Lackey worlds. They cover a broad range and overall I liked them. Unsurprisingly, I loved both the tie-in stories. Mercedes Lackey is my crack and I love the worlds she’s built, whether it’s Valdemar, her Dragon Jouster universe, or her Elemental Masters series. Brozek includes one story set in Valdemar, Discordance, which was the story I’d read before, and one set in the Elemental Masters universe called The Price of Family. I really liked this one, because it looks at the less pretty side of elemental magic and the moral dilemma’s its practitioners face.
Three other stories I want to mention are Eulogy for Muffin, A Nightmare for Anna, and The Bathory Clinic Deal. These stories stuck with me for different reasons. Eulogy for Muffin was such an unexpected story, what with the adoration of the pig statues and the fact that this isn’t just about humouring the kids’ needs to say goodbye to their departed pets. A Nightmare for Anna, was a twisted fairytale and I love how well Brozek incorporated the fairytale elements and managed to make what is a tragic story have a bittersweet ending. The Bathory Clinic Deal was just heart-breaking. The choices its protagonist has to make to protect his little sister and to take care of both of them are hard and his conviction that he would be the one to beat the odds is at once admirable and soul-crushing.
Apocalypse Girl Dreaming was a strong collection of stories and certainly shows off Brozek’s versatility as a writer very well. I had a great time with the stories in this book and I look forward to reading more of Brozek’s work in the future.
This book was provided for review by the author.