I'm going to assume, right from the start, that you know what Strange Waters is. And I refuse to tell you anything about it.
No. I won't. Absolutely not.
Okay, FINE. But you really should have heard all about it by now. Then again, perhaps you have recently been stranded on an island, undergoing an intensive training regimen to return to your hometown and prowl through the night as a vigilante, taking revenge upon your enemies, in which case you probably haven't had the chance to check Twitter very often.
I understand. No need to explain.
Strange Waters is the next anthology of short stories from the Phoenix Fiction Writers' group, of which I am a member. It's releasing in just a couple of days–Saturday, October 19th–and it includes stories from each of us based around the writing prompt of a single image (the cover image, to be precise).
Today, I'm reviewing E.B. Dawson's entry, Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea. Here's the synopsis:
An unorthodox professor of archaeology sets off to find his own answers about an unusual archaeological find, accompanied by an accident-prone student in need of extra credit.
The Archaeological Society of Catalan has pieced together a long and rich history for the planet of Illiana, based on a revolutionary dating system. But Dr. Barnaby Brown has his doubts about the accuracy of the procedure, which tends to give out false readings. His private findings seem to suggest that nothing on the planet is more than 500 years old–a hypothesis which, if proven true, would shake the very core of society.
When a set of incongruous new artifacts turn up, Barnaby learns they are inextricably linked to an old legend surrounding the Glass Sea. With an accident-prone student in tow, he sets out to find answers for himself and embarks on an adventure he never bargained for.
And here's a little about the author:
E.B. Dawson was born out of time. Raised in the remote regions of a developing nation, traveling to America was as good as traveling thirty years into the future. So, it’s really no wonder that she writes science fiction and fantasy.
She writes stories that acknowledge darkness, but empower and encourage people to keep on fighting, no matter how difficult their circumstances may be. She lives in Idaho with her family and her cat Maximus. You can find out more about Beth and her work on her website at ebdawsonwriting.com.
If I had to sum up the whole Strange Waters anthology in one word, I'd probably go with “fun.” Oh, that's not to say there aren't darker moments here and there, or scene that will bring a tear to your eye (looking at you, Nate Philbrick), but even those are in the context of stories that make you smile or leave you exhilarated in one way or another. I feel like we all really allowed our imaginations to soar when brainstorming our stories…and Barnaby Brown is no exception.
I really, really enjoyed this story. I've become hooked on E.B. Dawson's short fiction ever since reading her excellent titles Beast in the Machine and Voyage of the Pequod (click the links to see my Goodreads reviews of those), and this story is very much in the same vein. There's a strong Indiana-Jones feel to it, but the otherworldly setting adds a fresh new element to the mix. I'm tempted to describe this as “Indiana Jones meets Star Wars,” but that's not quite accurate and a little too simplistic. In any case, I love anything that has to do with archaeologists in space, so this story was right up my alley from the start.
The characters are all a joy to spend time with. Barnaby Brown in particular is a very intriguing and likable lead who draws the reader right into the story. The plot has some very clever twists (which I won't spoil). And the atmosphere is breathtaking. I felt immersed in this highly original world the whole time I was reading. It's escapism in the best sense of the word.
If Barnaby Brown has a fault (and really, it doesn't), it's only that it feels like the beginning to a much bigger story that is not currently available to the reader. However, that's not to say that it made this story disappointing–that's not the case at all. The main conflict of this particular story is wrapped up in a satisfying manner, and I wouldn't call the ending a cliffhanger; more of a very enticing hook for what may come next. There's a ton of depth to both the characters and world of this title that is yet to be explored, and I hope very much that E.B. Dawson decides to continue it in some fashion.
In short, Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea is yet another reason to pick up Strange Waters on October 19th. (As if you needed any more reasons. Seriously. Take a break from your vigilante activities and catch up on your reading, why don't you?) Also, if you'd like to read Malcolm Blackfire's reviews of all the Strange Waters stories, be sure to sign up for the Blackfire Circle newsletter and follow Malcolm on Instagram. He will be sharing his thoughts on each one of the stories over the next week.