Imagine if you will, a world of the future. A world where rich kids are chipped to run automated houses and fly in grav-powered limos while poor kids watch their families dissolve into poor health and struggle to manage the bare necessities. The only thing that brings these groups together is the VirtuMax corporation, an entertainment giant. Its newest hit is an immersive VR high fantasy game that is both addictive and incredibly popular.
But in this world, the veil between fantasy and mundane reality is beginning to shatter and admit the resurgent realm of the Fey. And they are looking to borrow whatever they must from the mortal world to maintain their existence.
Welcome to the world of Chronicle Worlds: Feyland, the latest installment of Samuel Peralta’s insanely popular Future Chronicles anthology series, and the first of his new Chronicle Worlds titles.
Chronicle Worlds: Feyland brings stories from leading authors to the crossroads where individual imagination and gamer sensibility meets author Anthea Sharp’s USA Today best selling Feyland series of YA fantasy books.
Twelve authors contributed to this volume, and every one of them brought exceptional story telling and skills and gamer sensibilities with them into the project. A brief rundown of the work is as follows:
“MeadowRue,” by Joseph Robert Lewis takes the story of an existing Feyland character: a de facto sea hag who must deal with a human girl who has courage and honor on the brain; “The Skeptic” by Lindsay Edmunds, shows how seeking to quantify the impossible but true can bite you on the butt. “The Sword of Atui” by Eric Kent Edstrom felt like a particularly gruesome episode of Sword Art Online, complete with server hacks and apparent game master cameos. “The Huntsman and the Old Fox” by Brigid Collins reminded me of my own experience as a parent gaming with a gaggle of teens and tweens.
“Unicorn Magic,” by Roz Marshal manages to take the story of a girl’s love for her horse and make it both gripping and uplifting.
My own contribution, “The City of Iron and Light,” tells the story of Sabine Jade, a lonely teen who has no idea just how far down the rabbit hole goes…but harbors a burning need to find out.
“The Gossamer Shard” by Dave Adams, shows what the World of Tanks might be like if its players blundered into the Unseelie realm; “The Glitchy Goblin” by K.J. Colt is a dark little tale of broken promises and crushed dreams that will actually make you feel for the goblins (no small task). In comparison, “On Guard” by Deb Logan, is the essence of the short story form: compact, compelling, and utterly without wasted words.
The two final selections, “An Artist’s Instinct,” by Andrea Luhman, and “Brea’s Tale: Passage,” by Anthea Sharp, share a mystical quality of presence. Both tell a story of a young woman struggling to transform herself into something new, but take very different approaches in the hows and whys. Read both back to back and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, you should real this entire book in order, front to back. Leave nothing out. Trust me.
But I think my favorite tale from this volume is “Tech Support” by James T. Wood. Consider: Ranjeet Nagar of Kochi, India is a young man with a strong work ethic and a family to support. He works as a tech support jock for VirtuMax, walking players of Feyland through their technical issues. Ranjeet is a compulsive puzzle solver and some of the wackier calls coming over the phone lately have got his creative juices running wild. But there are problems at work: his job is in danger of vanishing, the crazy calls describe things that cannot exist in the game, and Ranjeet cannot afford a proper VR set so he can’t even log into the game to see the weirdness for himself.
All that becomes irrelevant when Ranjeet finds a woman on the street being attacked by the same demons reported by players. Utterly disregarding his safety and prospects, Ranjeet enlists the help of a co-worker and his ex-fiance, who does have a full-D VR set and is an expert player, to track down the source of the incursions and set things right.
I think in several respects “Tech Support” is the most ambitious story in this set. It takes place entirely in India, flips the dominant theme of player vs game on its head, and manages to maintain a convincing level of engagement and suspense from the first sentence to the last.
That said–and the only thing really left to say here–is that at a launch price of .99 cents, and fifteen solid entries into the world of anthology fiction, Future Chronicles creator Samual Peralta and Feyland owner Anthea Sharp have created something genuinely new and compelling. Fans of gamerpunk, high fantasy, and science fiction will all have something to enjoy here.
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