Tales of My Ancestors
by Bruce Edward Golden
Review by Troy Erickson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781519414540
Date: 27 November 2015 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Known for his distinctive concepts in both short stories and novels, Bruce Golden has done it again (though adding his middle name to his byline for the first time). Even more so, I believe he's done something no other writer ever has. Yes, I realize that's saying a lot, and being different doesn't necessarily mean being good.
His latest book, Tales of My Ancestors, is a collection of historically based short stories ranging from 911 to 1962. Though primarily historical fiction, each tale has a hardy helping of fantasy or science fiction--his usual genres. But there are a number of books that combine historical fiction with speculative fiction. That's not what makes the book unique. The crowning touch (literally crowning because some his ancestors were actually kings) is that each story features at least one of his direct ancestors (a great, great . . . grandfather or grandmother). I've searched, and can't find a single book with all three of these elements. And that's what I love about Golden’s work. Each new book gives you something different. He hasn't written a sequel yet, though I often wish he would revisit some of the worlds he's created.
One of the stories in this volume deals with an English lord determined to not only colonize the new world, but to maintain religious freedom as one of the colony's founding precepts. Another follows a teenager who, against the wishes of his slave-owning parents, lies about his age to join the Northern Army and fight against the South. The best of bunch just might be the trip to Salem to witness the famous witch trials, with Satan in tow.
The stories are not in chronological order, so as you read you bounce around from one time period to the next--one culture to another. I kind of enjoyed this, as opposed to just traipsing straight through history. Along the way Golden's ancestors must deal with a mermaid, a creature of Hungarian legend, a banshee, and a pale horse of death which transcends time to plague four different ancestors. They will also meet up with time travelers, demons, and aliens, while learning how Shakespeare might have come up with the idea for one of his most popular plays.
As much as with the crisp writing and true dialogue, I was impressed with the depth and thoroughness of the research Golden must have had to conduct to put this all together. I was also amazed at the number of historical figures he’s directly related to, from English royals to French dukes to the earliest American settlers (though in his Author's Note, Golden states that he takes no particular pride in such connections because, as he learned from his extensive research, millions of people living today are likely direct descendants of, for example, someone such as Charlemagne). That said, he gives equal time to ancestors who were not so well known--servants, military grunts, craftsmen, farmers, and a postman who died in the line of duty.
Golden's dry sense of humor and penchant for satire are at their best when he good-naturedly pokes fun at some of his more pompous, well-bred ancestors, and champions those of more humble origins, whose cleverness, pluck, and courage enable them to rise above their seemingly pre-ordained stations in life, in classic underdog-prevails fashion. He pays serious homage to heroic ancestors and deals with others, flawed as they may be, openly and honestly in perspective to the period in which they lived.
Tales of My Ancestors is a collection of stories not only about bloodlines, but about the family unit, and how chance and synchronicity unites them over and over again across the ages by way of the most seemingly unlikely and unusual events.
Golden dedicates the book to his son and two young grandchildren and "all the Goldens that will hopefully follow." One can only hope that Golden's gene for imagination will be inherited by at least some of his descendants, continually replenishing the well of talent, ensuring continued entertainment and enlightenment of future readers for many generations to come.
I highly recommend Tales of My Ancestors to anyone who loves adventure, history, humor, fantasy, or science fiction.