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Front Lines
Edited by Denise Little
Review by Andrew Brooks
DAW Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756404789
Date: 06 May 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Another month here at SFRevu, and another DAW anthology up for review. The latest collection, Front Lines, is all about war on, of course, the front lines.

Editor Denise Little got an idea while watching a CNN reporter hunkered down with some soldiers in the middle of a firefight in Fallujah. Watching those soldiers, getting a firsthand account of what being a solider in a fight is all about, led Little to think about what war meant on a smaller scale. Instead of the big picture, the strategies and politics of generals, the stories in Front Lines deal with what it's like to be on the ground and concerned only with getting back home.

From magic to lasers to giant man-eating bugs, there's a lot of variety here. While I didn't enjoy all 21 shorts, there is enough here for those who enjoy getting through a single read or two in one sitting.

"The War, Me, 17 Million Dollars and a Stripper" is certainly one of the most memorable titles I've come across. But it's also one of the best stories I've read in the past year. I'm a sucker for a good human vs. alien story and that's what this is. Facing nearly unbeatable Slimes are two veteran soldiers and one noob who, as it just so happens, was a stripper before joining the fight. Using knowledge from the soldier's previous occupation, the stripper actually provides a unexpected solution to the entire conflict and one that makes sense. It's an entertaining and fast read, and Dave Freer is a talented writer with a humorous touch.

"Thirty-two Bullets in Twenty-three Seconds" by Diane A.S. Stuckart is a bit of alternate history set in the Old West at the infamous OK Corral. It's an interesting take on the historical gun battle and the, re-envisioned, fate of the Earp brothers. I wasn't expecting to come across a western shootout in the Front Lines collection, but it fit well and I loved the, also unexpected, ending.

Having loved Laura Resnick's "Something Virtual This Way Comes" in the last DAW anthology I read, Something Magic This Way Comes, I expected the same wit and tongue-in-cheek story-telling that infused that story. I wasn't disappointed in the least. In fact, "Peacekeeping Mission" is even better than the previous story and that's saying a lot. In her story it isn't the Middle East that is locked in a confusing, hatred-fueled war. It's North America. Although neither side remembers exactly why or when the first shot was fired, the United States and Canada are embroiled in a knockdown, take-no-prisoners conflict. The kicker here is that the Middle East League, comprised of Israelites and Palestinians, long after they realized their own fight was silly, are sending political envoys in an attempt to forge a peace between the two warring neighbors.

I've saved my favorite short in this collection for last. "Bloody Footprints in the Snow" by Jean Rabe is the reason I fell in love with science fiction short stories when I was younger. Set in a future where one alien culture pits others against each other in historically simulated battles, this story revolves around George Washington's Christmas crossing of the Delaware. The man set up to play the general not only takes his role seriously, but so do the aliens playing the part of the British. Think the Roman Colosseum with the Romans played by a seriously advanced civilization pitting conquered planets against each other for fun. This writer knows how to tell an wonderful story. I look forward to reading more of Jean Rabe's stuff.

Front Lines contains some really well-written stories and I heartily recommend it to those seeking entertaining shorts. DAW has put together another solid collection.

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