Eight The Hard Way by Nick Stephenson

I enjoy a good short story and I also enjoy a good anthology. This is a collection of stories that are fair and not well edited in the way this anthology is assembled. The book is touted as a collection of thrillers. I didn’t feel like I got that from this book. There was an uneven quality to the stories whereby you had one full of action and the next going nowhere.

Nick Stephenson is the editor of this anthology as well as a contributing author. He chose to put his own work first and it was also the longest piece. In reading an assembled work of this kind, it is unusual that the author chose to showcase his own material first. I found that off putting.

Structurally, it works better when assembling a collection to put the longest piece in the middle. This showcases that piece. Shorter pieces are built on either end. Almost like Tetris, the stories need to fit together to make sense. In addition, there were two stories by D.D. VanDyke with the same character of Cal Corwin. The second story should have actually been put first as it better introduced the character and her background. Instead, the first story was introduced later and made assumptions about the readers knowledge of the character that could have been addressed by simply changing story order.

As for the stories themselves…there were some better than others. There were a few that rambled on with no crispness. There were others that stood the test of what a short story should be. There was one that defied all logic and made for quite a conversation piece. Whether or not it fit the genre, I’m not sure.

Short stories are the hardest ones to write. Characters have to be developed quickly and have enough fullness to keep the reader interested in what will happen to them. The story itself has to unfold quickly because resolution is going to come fast. The use of words has to be economical and carefully selected because every word counts – literally and figuratively – toward the end result. I’m not convinced that this collection hit all these necessary points in order for me to feel good about recommending the collection.

My advice to readers is check the contents and see if there are particular writers you really love to read and base your purchase of the book on your willingness to pay for the stories of a particular author.

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