Panverse Two, edited by Dario Ciriello
Review by Deirdre M. Murphy
Panverse Two is an oversized paperback with a gorgeous cover, containing five original novellas. As a writer I approve of a publisher who chooses to feature novellas, which are a difficult length to sell. As a reader, based on this sampling, I have to wish that novellas were easier to find.
I enjoyed every story in this book, even the military alternate history, "A Clash of Eagles" by Alan Smale, which I initially skipped over when I picked up, the book because I’m not generally a fan of that sub-genre. Without introducing magic or technology out of line with the world shown in the story, "A Clash of Eagles" provided surprises for me as well as for the protagonists.
My favorite story was "Snow Comes to Hawk’s Folly" by J. Kathleen Cheney, a tale of Irish puca halfbreeds trying to make a life in the new world. This is the story of what happens when some of the more powerful fae folk of Europe follow the puca halfbreeds to America. The couple’s baby, who has a very active magical gift of unbinding, is kidnapped, and the clues don’t (initially) add up. This story is magical, and it kept my attention riveted from the first page to the last.
In "To Love the Difficult", Amy Sterling Casil presents a story of the greatest blogger in the world, who awakens to find his house in shambles. He stumbles to his favorite grocery store to find its nearly empty shelves are the hunting ground of a wild and aggressive raccoon. Part of the fun of the story is learning what happened, so I won’t spoil that here. This is a coming of age story, where a grown man is faced with a bleak new world and has to find—or create—his place in it.
"The Curious Adventure of the Jersey Devil" by Michael D. Winkle left me wondering whether Charles Fort ever mentioned Flatland. It asks if a turn-of-the-century unemployed reporter can turn a sighting of a strange creature into a job that will let him pull himself and his wife out of the soup kitchen line. Can he and his wife even survive without relying on the gun his eccentric employer pushed into his hands?
The final novella in the collection is listed as "Dangerous Creatures", by J. Michael Snell. It consists of two books, "Glamorous Creatures" and "Damnable Creatures", which are thematically related, but do not seem to share characters, and might not even share the same universe. In both stories, we see the follies that love, or at least something that passes for love, can lead to.
In "Glamourous Creatures", we see the lighthearted adventures of tiny fairies, sprites, and pixies whose constant preoccupation is sex—or at least, dreams of sex. For, you see, they lack males, and so they turn to using glamour on humans to enter their dreams and bask in the resulting energy. Of course, things aren’t as simple as that, and the dangers for a human who gets involved with these glamourous creatures go beyond the obvious.
"Damnable Creatures" shows us some very different supernatural creatures, drawing on vampire mythology instead of faerie. Once again, there’s a twist or two. Love is the curse that every vampire dreads, for the vampire’s solitary and possessive nature both binds the love—the loved person and the feeling itself—with a stranglehold. New-made vampires are told, “do not fall in love, or in the centuries that follow, you will inevitably be bound to a person you can no longer stand to be with—or without”. But even when a person is, strictly speaking, no longer human, the human heart refuses to be ruled by logic. This story sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until I’d finished every word.
Overall, these stories show five very different worlds, and five different outlooks on the world as well. I definitely recommend this book to any reader of speculative fiction. I think you’ll find at least one story here to love.
Editor's note: It's currently $4 off on the publisher's site.