by C. Bryan Brown
Publisher Misanthrope Press
Dealing with Sci-fi, especially soft sci-fi and even more so when it bears a horror bent, can be a bit of a sticky wicket due to the assumption that it is always a rehashing of a specific archetype. For instance, if I told you that Men of Five deals with Yerik Romanofski and his Interplanetary Task Force team who are searching a supposedlybarren, inhospitable rock of a planet, designated rather than named (HT 12-25), that possesses an inexplicable structure of obvious non-natural origin and have found it somewhat less uninhabited than they thought, you would be inclined to think Alien rehash. And you would be wrong here.
Instead, C. Bryan Brown uses that prejudice to misdirect the reader and keep them off balance when the true thrust of the story hits. Unfortunately, it is in that thrust that it fell flat for me. First off, it seems predicated on a surprise that didn’t surprise very well due to over use. About half way through, I had found myself muttering that “if the planet is (spoiler redacted) and they are (more spoilers redacted), then I’m gonna be pissed,” and I was. Part of my annoyance may be that I do not find the central conflict, as it is presentedhere, or even the mystery surrounding it to be particularly engaging. It certainly doesn’t help that the largely internal struggle, despite the presence of giant, man eating creatures, doesn’t leave much room for action. Someone else with a more religious bent may disagree with me, but even on those terms there isn’t enough meat and depth to make it truly affecting.
Now that I’ve complained, I’m going to backtrack a bit and say that this story could work quite well if used as an introduction to a larger conflict. There is a reason that so much of our classic literature has dealt with issues of fate and destiny and the struggles of man against those forces, both futile and fruitful: they strike a deep cord in us. It would need quite a bit of trimming but could prove to lead into a very interesting story. Unfortunately, as it stands it left me a tad empty.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.