I’m not one to typically read short story collections or anthologies but the theme behind the latest John Joseph Adams’ edited Operation Arcana was sufficiently intriguing to pique my interest. The focus of Operation Arcana is on military fantasy and includes a wonderful list of contributors. The stories in Operation Arcana run the gamut from high action, to more subtle medications of war and combat. By and large Operation Arcana is full of tight, entertaining fiction. I’m not going to go through every story in the anthology but there were really a handful of stories that absolutely blew me away.
Ari Marmell’s Heavy Sulfur offers an interesting take on the First World War; an area not often covered in fantasy fiction. Marmell grounds the story in reality; injecting it with subtle magic; it’s a unique backdrop and one I’d be interested in seeing employed more often. I skipped over Weston Ochese’s goofy-titled Seal Team 666 but his story here, American Golem, has me seriously reconsidering that decision. Featuring some serious action and a quiet mediation on the horror of war and the nature of existence make for a well-rounded and entrancing story. Myke Cole’s Weapons of the Earth, deals goblins and takes place in the magical Source seen in his Shadow Ops novels. While the Shadow Ops series has offered glimpses into the lives and culture of the goblins, Weapons of the Earth really delves into things as it focuses on a tribe of nomadic goblins who are being held as POWs by a less benevolent set of goblins. Weapons of the Earth is a real eye opener and I sincerely hope that Cole follows up with more short fictions set in the world of Shadow Ops; it’d be neat to get something from the Naga! I was extremely impressed with Seanan McGuire’s In Skeleton Leaves. In this story she reworks the story of Peter Pan in a very dark way; it is an interesting look at being forced to grow up in a land where that is supposed to be impossible.
Oddly the story I was most excited about, a Black Company story by Glen Cook called Bone Eaters, I found extraordinarily difficult to get into. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve finished the Black Company series combine with the fact that Bone Eaters takes place right around the events of The White Rose. It wasn’t bad in anyway but it was difficult going back to cast of character who, to me at least, have been mostly dead for a number of years. Perhaps it’s about time I went back and re-read The Black Company novels. While I’ve only discussed a hanful of stories that I thought were the best in the anthology there were no real disappointments (outside the above). Each and every story in Operation Arcana is a fine read with many offering a unique take on the anthology’s premise. Operation Arcana is an anthology that I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone and everyone who enjoy exciting military themed fantasy fiction.