Thrilling Adventure Yarns by Robert Greenberger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I participated in the Kickstarter for this anthology because of meeting Crazy 8 author Mary Fan at Farpoint. I’m quite glad I did because nearly all of these knocked it out of the park! And those that didn’t were still good stories that I enjoyed reading.
I’ve been into pulp fiction ever since picking up the Big Pulp series at Baltimore Comic-Con nearly a decade ago. There’s something really fun that can come from allowing a story to go whereever it goes – even if that ends up being a prurient place. Additionally, the tropes behind these stories have been done to death – so in 2020 you know that authors are going to be playing with reader expectations to provide new kinds of twists. Or they will bring to the surface what was only coded before – like LGBT characters (for which you could actually go to jail for having in your stories back in the day).
As I always do with anthologies here are my per story reviews/ideas:
The Crazy Complicated Cat Caper – A delightfully pulp detective story. Our detective is genre-savvy, but not so much that it removes the stakes. The author set up a pretty good red herring – I was CERTAIN I knew what the jig was, but it turned out I was mostly wrong. I wonder if this is a character the author writers other short stories about, because I’d certainly enjoy reading them.
Opium Dreams: A short detective story during yellow-peril period in San Francisco, CA. I thought the conclusion was a cool inversion of what I expected. Unfortunately, the story needed a tiny bit more copy-editing.
The Legend of Hammer Jack Curry: Of three stories I’ve read thus far, this one is my favorite. It takes the tropes the anthology is based around: Penny Dreadfuls/Pulp Fiction/etc and plays with them in new and fun ways. That a plot twist is coming is pretty evident about 1/4 of the way in, but the author leans into the tropes so hard in order to subvert them that it left me a little unsure. But this is using tropes in the best way – taken a well-established genre and then using tropes against the reader (in a good way)
The Juggernauts of El Dorado: An alternate fantasy history where El Dorado is not the city of Gold, but of machines. Europe’s advantage is not guns, but alchemy. It leads to a very interesting story that may or may not go in the same direction as our true history did. Plus it’s a fun adventure story with a relatable narrator.
Professor Ironheart and the Furherbunker: Because this is a pulp collection, this story kept me guessing about what the twist would be. Afterall, we all know that Hitler and Eva Braun died in the bunker. So would this be an alternate history? A time travel story? Cloning? Turned out there were two twists and each one was wild.
Masks: Wonder if this is real speech Hoover gave. The main character seems to be a female Batman or Green Arrow. Probably more the latter since she doesn’t have any gadgets. It seemed like a great intro story into a universe of masked vigilantes in the 1920s. I wouldn’t mind a series of short stories or novellas with this character, especially during that time period in America.
Belle of the Ball: Takes the pirate with a secret life trope (not super common, but I *have* seen it before) and has some fun with it. I found the ending to be a bit of a suprise compared to where I expected the tropes to take it.
Girl Running from House: A music teacher ends up in the middle of a sisterly argument that turns treacherous. Good use of ominous tropes to keep the reveal more surprising.
Trouble Came walking Through My Door: I’d heard the word gams before, but looked it up because of this story. (basically means “good looking legs”) Pretty good pulp detective story that hit a lot of the key beats. Very interesting set of characters that I’d like to see again in a future short story.
Hate Hop: I believe it’s a World War I narrative in which a life-long rivalry leads two men to act irrationally rather than working together as they should since they’re in a gosh-darned WAR! Full of a bunch of jargon that often left me guessing about just what exactly was going on. But if you’re a WWI geek, it probably sounds awesome to you.
The Last Gunslinger: (by Mary Fan – the whole reason I backed this Kickstarter) Somehow this works out to be a story that both hews to pulp western tropes while at the same time proving so relevant for this time. “The law sides people like them, not people like us” hit especially hard. It also acknowledges (without being preachy) what most westerns leave out – that a large majority of those in the cowboy west were non-whites. That’s what makes Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles even more subversive. Nice to see that Ms. Fan is as good at short stories as she is with a novel.
the invasion from planet ex: bizarre and i wonder if they just made up speech bubbles to go with drawings that already existed.
alien invasion of earth!: A fun story for anyone who’s ever been a grad student – you do all the work and the professor gets all the credit.
The Third Law: A detective story that takes a lot of neat twists and turns. I’m not sure I 100% get the last paragraph because it implies something crazy happened “off-stage”, but otherwise pretty neat.
Not just an Intern: A romance story that has a good mix of following romance tropes and avoiding them as well. A cute read.
the Green Lady and the Rogue: much more of a classic romance, including NSFW parts. Surprisingly takes place during the American Revolution. Works quite well in this collection and I wouldn’t mind more stories (with or without romance elements) with this character.
Outsider: a ghost story that combines newer tropes from the ghost hunters ‘reality’ tv shows. Perfect to read in October.
chaos at feast: starts off with some purple prose that reminds me of Lovecraft or Poe. Turns out to be salient, because this story is apparently, what if Indiana Jones went up against Eldritch horrors? Definitely dreams of a Shogoth.
Dreams of Kingdom: My FAVORITE story. I love how fun it is. The tone. The amusement of our main character. I want MORE. A warrior walks into a giant bit of intrigue and boy is the ending so great.
Aftermath: An incredible story to close out this anthology. A short story that kind of reminds me of the first chapter of the Powder Mage Trilogy. And evil, magic-wielding kingdom is overthrown. Then the true horrors show themselves: politicking and backstabbing. A great narrative with great twists and turns.
View all my reviews