“In space, no one can hear you scream.” The tagline from the motion picture Alien prompted many imitators to blend genres, specifically horror and science fiction. Unfortunately, after more than thirty years of this type of thematic mash-up, it’s very challenging to rise above a level of familiarity. The fourth book in the Full Throttle Space Tales series is well presented and covers all the expected subject matter, but the main problem with Space Horrors is that it covers all the expected subject matter.
To his credit, editor David Lee Summers has assembled a very capable stable of authors who have an obvious love for the subject matter. Accomplished writers and editors like Patrick Thomas and Danielle Ackley-McPhail bring experience and brevity to work that would otherwise collapse under its own weight. Every work Summers chose to include is easy to read and to enjoy, and there’s no danger of being distracted by made-up terminology or faux military processes.
But this brevity only serves to accentuate how well-trodden these paths are. We’ve already seen the alien invasion, the hopeless last stand of an abandoned outpost, and the salvage mission gone wrong. Even more recent tropes are well represented, like the robot impersonating a human or the lone survivor trapped with no hope of escape. Just about every story in the book has been done as a 1950s cliffhanger serial or a Star Trek episode. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the writing in any way, but it’s hard to recommend the book as a whole when it’s all so familiar.
A notable exception would be Dana Bell’s “Chosen One”, a story of an alien encounter told from an unusual non-human perspective. Bell’s story is truly original and has the added benefit of being well-suited to the medium. Some science fiction concepts simply can’t be filmed or animated, and Bell uses her eight pages of dense prose to maximum effect. If only the story weren’t so short, it might be worth the full price of the book for that one work alone.
Full Throttle Space Tales 4: Space Horrors, edited by David Lee Summers. Published 2010 by Flying Pen Press, ISBN 978-0-9818957-6-5. 284 pages, softcover.
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