Marching Time by Various Authors – Anthology Review [Bane of Kings]

marchingtime

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews the second anthology from the folks at the Black Library Bolthole, a fan-forum dedicated to fiction published Black Library, including veteran guest author CL Werner. Like The Black Wind’s Whispers, Marching Time is a themed anthology focusing around a particular subject – in this case time travel.

“An excellent collection of short stories – Marching Time learns from the mistakes made in The Black Wind’s Whispers and delivers a very awesome read that comes highly recommended for anybody looking for a true variety in time travel stories.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

History is written by the victors.
History is re-written by the time travellers.
Brave men and women will fight to the death in the battle to have the last word…

There is no technology that war will not bend to its desires. And despite the risks, so too does this include the dangers of time travel. Edited by Ross O’Brien, Andrew Aston and James Fadeley, the Bolthole writing forum is proud to present twelve new tales from the cunning minds of its new and veteran authors. Including chronologically-twisted tales of warfare from Jonathan Ward, “Spares” author Alec McQuay, Lauren Grest, Mark Steven Thompson, Ed Fortune, Griff Williams, Mark Grudgings and a special guest story from veteran writer C L Werner.

Time Travel is an awesome subject, is it not? It’s been around for a while – heck, Doctor Who celebrates its fiftieth anniversary today with a special episode and it’s very interesting to read about the endless possibilities that come from it. More recently (well, in 2011) we’ve had the likes of 11.22.63 by Stephen King look at the events concerning JFK’s assassination – an event which this week also shares the 50th Anniversary with – and that was a pretty awesome book even if it felt over long at times. The idea translates into pretty much every medium – Back to the Future for example is arguably the most popular film series with time travel as its core, with there no doubt being countless of other stories thrown into the mix as well. There’s  last year’s Looper – a time travel movie starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis – and finally, there’s the classic HG Wells novel The Time Machine. As you can probably gather, the very concept of time travel has an endless amount of possibilities and it’s great to see them explored in so many different ways by the authors here – with no two stories feeling similar as each bring a fresh and unique take on the subject matter. In fact, there’s barely a miss in the entire collection as all of the works found within are engaging and awesome.

marchingtimeThe anthology opens with a very solid story – Jonathan Ward’s Ripples, delivering a strong start that’s possibly one of the best of the lot. It’s as equally captivating as it is enthralling providing a powerful opener that will have readers looking forward to the next story even if it is by a completely different author. Ward’s story starts the anthology off with a bang however and the form of the book continues pretty much all the way through – there’s no obvious weak link and the stories are all solid and engaging. Obviously it’s tempting to skip straight to CL Werner’s  novel as he’s the most established author here, but the book reads much better if you’re reading one short story after another and it gives you a great chance to taste other’s stories before you delve right into the thick of things. The team behind this anthology have learned a lot more than they did when they were working on The Black Wind’s Whispers – and if you’ve read that anthology then you’ll know what I mean here. Don’t get me wrong, The Black Wind’s Whispers is still an entertaining read, but Marching Time is stronger as a publication and comes with an awesome cover art to boot. I don’t normally mention cover arts in reviews but seriously – just how awesome is that cover? If I was walking past it in a bookshop I’d probably buy it right there on impulse – it just looks so amazing and is worth buying for the art alone.

It’s not just the returning authors from The Black Wind’s Whispers who put out some consistently strong stories in the pages of the book – Alec McQuay’s Fractured for example is just as strong as newcomer Ed Fortune’s Marked For Death, and A.R. Aston’s The Subliminal Reserves is as enthralling as Family Ties by Lauren Grest. Easily the most unusual and original tale of the bunch is James Fadeley’s Flár Ragnarök – with its interesting and unique setting allowing for a very page turning read. However, whilst there are the hits, like any anthology there are also the misses – even if they may be far from frequent and obvious. The world building in some short stories isn’t given the time and space it needs to in order to flesh itself out and the transition between some stories takes a while to adapt. It was very rarely that I found myself reading multiple stories in more than one sitting, proffering to spread them apart so I wouldn’t be thrown off by the next short story.

So whilst Marching Time may not be a perfect success – it’s a marked improvement over the still good The Black Wind’s Whispers – and provides a very entertaining read. If you’re looking for some time travel stories other than Doctor Who to focus on this week then you can’t go far wrong with Marching Time – providing a very unique batch of stories that remain fresh and very engaging. They’re all certainly worth checking out – and this thus comes recommended.

VERDICT: 4/5

 

 

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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