Posted on December 16, 2009 by Flames
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In his introduction to “Michael H. Hanson’s Sha’Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse” author Mike Resnick sates that is “not quite a round-robin novel by its many authors, but is somehow more than an anthology.”
That statement is an accurate one. This book has a total of ten separate stories, and ten additional short “interludes” between each story written by Michael H. Hanson. Hanson wrote one of the ten stories, as did editor Edward McKeown. The remaining eight stories are written by eight separate authors.
Each story is connected, however, by one over-arching theme and one or more re-occurring characters. For a 48-hour period occurring once every 10,000 years, a variety of demonic creatures known collectively as the Sha’Daa break through their Hell-dimension and come Earth. Each of the stories is an episode during the Sha’Daa attempt to come into this world. However, the mysterious character known as Johnny the Salesman appears in each story, often providing an item or artifact to one of the characters that will likely be helpful during his or her battle with the Sha’Daa, whether or not the character knows that item will in fact be used for that purpose.
Furthermore, the individual stories are sort of “bookended” by a prologue and an epilogue which deals with the goddess-being Akasa and her son Prana. Prana also appears in the last two stories as well — “Prana” by Hanson and “The Salesman” by Rob Adams — which lead into the final denouement of the epilogue.
Like most anthologies, some of the stories in Sha’Daa are better than others.
The first story is “The Dive” by McKeown, which is about public works department personnel fighting ape-faced demons in the New York sewer system. “Tunguska Outpact” by Deborah Koren is an excellent character study of a woman who accompanies her semi-abusive boyfriend to the famous Tunguska site in Russia. “Lava Lovers” by Wilson Pete Marsh has a married couple visiting a volcano near Greece when an eruption with demonic consequences occurs and their only hope of survival lies with an ancient sea captain. Arthur Sanchez’s “The Way of the Warrior” may be the best story in this book. This humorous story is about a young boy at a Buddhist monastery who, armed only with a mop and bucket of soap, must defend the compound from a demonic onslaught. “Breaking Even” by Jamie Schmidt has the fate of the entire universe at stake during a poker game between two higher (or is that lower?) beings. “Dixie Chrononauts” has Civil War re-enactors actually sent back in time to Gettysburg, along with an evil sorcerer and the professor who is trying to stop him. Adrienne Ray’s “The Great Nyuk-Nyuk” is also a humor-laden story. It is about a sarcastic boy who may be the only person to save the world if he can get a powerful demon-lord to actually laugh. “The Seventh Continent” by Lee Ann Kurganti is about the demomic invasion of Antartica at a military base. “Talking Heads” by Nancy Jackson is set on Easter Island during the Sha’Daa awakening and a group of students and islanders must stop it.
“Prana” is next, and is an interesting story about how a god could (or should) interfere with the mortal world. “The Salesman” provides the history of the most re-occurring character, Johnny, and that proves to be an excellent conclusion to the book.
Overall, Hanson and McKeown set high goals for this book. It is a hard-to-classify literary experiment and it deserves high praise for trying to break the mold of what constitutes an “anthology” or even “novel” of speculative fiction because it can be viewed either way.
However, some of the stories fall short of the goal they had set up for this book. Some of the stories are a bit longer than they should be, and some of them are simply not engaging enough. The same holds true for the interludes as well; some are interesting, and others make the reader simply wonder why they are part of this book.
Sha’Daa is worth the read if you are looking for something that is bit more experimental than the usual fare, although be aware its goals are bit more than its reach.
Review by Chris Welch