SATURN’S CHILD And Other Tales
By Mark Allen Vann
Writer Mark Allen Vann has the marvelous talent of spinning old familiar genres around until they appear like something totally fresh and new. He does this to perfection in his latest collection of stories, “Saturn’s Child And Other Tales.” There are a total of seven and each is wonderfully presented with seven new and original heroes battling all manner of villainy.
Saturn’s Child kicks off the collection wherein Vann does a flip on a classic Edgar Rice Burroughs off-world yarn. In this case, it is the beautiful Saturn Princess Xian Xenn who, while fleeing assassins, is magically transported to the planet Earth. Specifically Los Vegas in the 70s where she encounters mobsters, and berserk bikers and ultimately has a meeting with none other than the King. We’ll be nominating this one for a Pulp Factory Award.
Secondly “Bad Medicine at Blackstone Gulch,” is a weird western that introduces us to Marshal Hollister Payne charged with bringing the deadly four Yancy Brothers to Silver City to be judged for their many crimes. Along the way, they encounter the ghost of an Indian Shaman set on delivering his own blood-oath vengeance.
“Dented Halos and Dirty Faces.” Angel City was once a thriving metropolis protected by the Justice Squadron. Then the vampire invasion fell upon it and the heroes were defeated. Now the citizens cower in fear every night as the bloodsuckers seek out their new victims. Private Eye Jana Dhark, the former super-hero Jett, is hired to find a missing teenage girl by her father. But to do so will mean assembling a new team with the courage to enter the Dead Zone and confront an army of the undead.
“They Call Him…Iron Mask” is a really charming twist on the Superman origin, only this time the rocket ship that crash lands in Martha and Elroy’s farm backyard is carrying a humanoid-shaped robot with good intentions. What happens next is both amusing and endearing. A story we personally love and will be another award nomination for sure.
“The Lion of Llanaxa” begins well enough but simply doesn’t deliver its conclusion. It’s a tale that goes nowhere and thus is the weakest one in the book.
“Through Fog of War” has World War II Navy sailor Colton Kendricks shipwrecked on a strange deserted island in the South Pacific. What he discovers on that island defies all reason and logic, but proves to be a very good opening chapter to what we hope is more to come.
Finally, Vann wraps it all up with “Stalker in the Shadows,” the tale of Rick Mordane who lives in a world where the dead have come back to life. Well at least as visible, interacting ghosts if you will and he’s a private eye better identified as a Poltergeist Negotiator. What a hot looking redhead comes to him saying she’s being stalked by a former lover, Rick finds himself unable to resist her charms even though the case itself has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. A really wonky, fun story.
And there you have it, four terrific yarns, two genuine gems and one lackluster affair. Meaning this is another well-crafted Xepico Press offering by a writer whose talent is only growing with each new collection. You don’t want to miss it.