Sunday, October 28, 2012


Stranded by Anne Bishop, Anthony Francis, James Alan Gardner
Belle Bridge Books, 8/24/2012
Paperback, 210 pages
ISBN-13: 9781611941661 

Three Great Authors-Three Great Science Fiction Stories
A Strand In the Web
New York Times Bestselling Fantasy Author Anne Bishop makes her U.S. debut in Science Fiction with this engaging futuristic novella. The Restorers travel the universe fulfilling a purpose handed down through the generations. They live and die aboard city-ships, never knowing the worlds they create and save. What begins as a disastrous training exercise in creating and balancing ecosystems becomes an unexpected fight for survival. The only hope may be the secret project of an untried Restorer team.
A Host Of Leeches
Award winning author James Alan Gardner pens a wonderfully imaginative tale in which a young woman wakes to find herself the sole human on an orbiting, mechanical space station. To find a way home, she must navigate the dangerous politics of war between opposing robot leaders.
Popular urban fantasy writer Anthony Francis (Dakota Frost, Skindancer series) explores a clash of ethics and survival when a young, genetically engineered centauress from the ultra-advanced Alliance lays claim to a rare, strategic garden planet, only to find herself captured by a band of rag-tag Frontier refugees who've crashed their vintage ship on her unexpectedly hostile world.

My Thoughts:
Stranded by Anne Bishop, Anthony Francis, James Alan Gardner features three science fiction novellas that share "stranded" as a common theme.
All of the stories feature young protagonists so this collection could easily be classified as YA.

In "A Host Of Leeches" by James Alan Gardner Alyssa is a young woman who wakes up, alone, after suffering from some sort of plague. She discovers she has been left on a space station and that all the other infected humans on the station are frozen. The station was originally set up for human habitation but is now only inhabited by war robots, who have been decommissioned to the space station. Alyssa is unexpectedly thrust into a conflict between two opposing robot leaders. I enjoyed this story the most and would very highly recommend it.
In "A Strand In the Web" by Anne Bishop, Willow is a restorer in training on an aging ship. She is learning to create ecosystems with balance on planets across the solar system. Willow is assigned trees as her specialty in her training team. When two members of her team sabotage the groups efforts on their project, jeopardizing the future for everyone, Willow takes a daring leap of faith and applies to be the sole restorer of a nearby island. Surprisingly, she is granted permission to create a balanced ecosystem for the island and calls upon a classmate, Stev, to assist her. I enjoyed this heartfelt story with a hopeful ending. I also enjoyed this story a lot and would very highly recommend it.
"Stranded" by Anthony Francis involves a genetically engineered Centauress from the advanced Alliance, traveling to a planet she wants to colonize - and to escape her accomplished grandmother's sphere of influence. She arrives only to have a group of feral children, who have broken into bands of boys versus girls, crash their spaceship on "her" planet. A conflict erupts as a struggle for power plays out between all the juveniles. This was the least successful story in the collection for me, but I would still recommend it.
Verdict: highly recommended as a collection
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Belle Bridge Books and Netgalley for review purposes.


"A Host of Leeches" James Alan Gardner Author’s Note:
If you were invited to write a science fiction story about someone getting “stranded,” I’ll bet your first thought would be, “Okay, somebody gets stranded on an alien planet.” Then, if you’re like me, you’d think, “So how do I do the opposite?” What’s the opposite of being stranded on a planet? Being stranded off a planet. I pictured a girl who wakes up all alone in a spaceship. That’s a good place to begin, but she needed characters to interact with. The only problem was that if she met other humans, she wouldn’t be alone anymore. What could she meet instead of humans? Robots. Or aliens. Or both. Mix together The Omega Man, The Wizard of Oz, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick or Lonesome No More!, and it all makes perfect sense. Location 24-30
She woke and heard silence for the first time in her life. No music. No voices. Not even the hum of machinery or the of distant traffic. When she breathed, she could hear air going in and out of her nose. She could even hear the slow beat of her heart. She was in a bed—she could feel that much—but the room was as black as a blindfold. “Balla?” she whispered. No answer. “Balla?” Her voice cracked as she tried to speak as if she hadn’t talked in a long, long time. Her throat was gummed with mucus. “Balla!” This time she managed a hoarse shout. The name echoed faintly, then the silence returned. It scared her. She’d never before been this alone. She sat up and brushed her left fingers across her right forearm, where Balla should have been. She felt her own bare skin, and the small stent-hole where Balla was supposed to jack into her bloodstream. The hole was plugged with a little plastic cap. Location 31-37; "A Host of Leeches" opening 
"A Strand in the Web" Anne Bishop Author’s Note:
 Many years ago, three things happened around the same time. I read a quote by Chief Seattle about humankind being one strand in the web of life. I was playing a game called Sim Park and not having much luck keeping my ecosystems balanced. And I saw a bumper sticker that said, “One Earth, One Chance.” I wondered what would happen if you could have a second chance. That wondering eventually became “A Strand in the Web.”
“Oh, yuckit,” Zerx said as she looked at the cup in her hand and made squinchy faces. “I asked for it hot, and this is barely even warm!” Location 883-888, opening "A Strand in the Web"  (More at

You couldn’t apply for a Restorer’s team until you proved you could work in real time and maintain Balance in your part of the project. So, we had waited and studied and done the computer simulations and watched our simulated worlds crumble into ecological disaster—much like the worlds the Restorers committed themselves to rebuilding. Now each team had part of a large island. Each part had a strong force field around it to prevent any accidents or disasters from going beyond the team’s designated area. Now we were working in real time. We couldn’t just delete plants and animals to make it more convenient when something got out of hand because we were given an allotment from the huge, honeycombed chambers holding the genetic material for billions of species from all over the galaxy. That allotment determined how many of each species we could deposit at our site. Now, every life counted—not just for our own final scores in the project, but for the well-being of the planet. I was assigned the trees for this project, which pleased me very much because my name is Willow. Location 908-915 

"Stranded" Anthony Francis Author’s Note:
Almost a decade ago, I was working on a space opera starring a genetically engineered centauress from a supercivilization with all the toys. Wondering what her grandchildren would be like, I sketched a young centauress crossing a field of wheat towards impossible mountains, then drew her brother, a pudgier centaur with a straw hat reading a map of the universe … and carrying a staff that could take him anywhere. Almost a decade later, my editor Debra asked me for a science fiction story about young adults finding their way. I gave that young girl her brother’s staff and her grandmother’s morals, imagined what would happen if she met a bunch of refugee children who were every bit as good as her in their hearts but who didn’t quite have it all together, and made them all collide on that field of wheat before those impossible mountains. The result is “Stranded.”
—Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr. Stranded Sirius flinched as sizzling grey bullets tumbled around him in zero-gee. The grey dented veligen pellets rattled through the cramped innards of Independence’s life support plant, stinging his nose with the scent of bitter almonds. His hands strained at the yellow-striped master fuse. The girls shouted. They fired their guns again. More bullets twanged around him, ricocheting off the ancient, battered equipment, striking closer with every shot—but Sirius just gripped the hot, humming tube harder, braced both booted feet, and pulled. Location 1663-1674, opening  "Stranded"
“No. Don’t waste a second of your life hurting yourself just because someone else ‘should’ do something. Accept the situation and make the best of it—”  Location 2861-2862

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