Orbit Short Fiction seem to be making something of a success of the short-story form. This is the second one I've read - the first being Mira Grant's Countdown
- and while neither of them are breaking exciting new literary ground they are providing an enjoyable set of prequels and spin-off stories from novel-length works or series. Like Countdown
, this one too is a prequel - providing some back-story for one of the characters from Leviathan Wakes
, Colonel Fred Johnson, the Butcher of Anderson Station.
Set before the events of Leviathan Wakes
, the story is told partly in the present tense and partly through flashbacks to the events on Anderson Station itself. Johnson is a man who, hailed as a hero on Earth for his retaking of Anderson Station and reviled throughout the Belt for the loss of life that attack involved, has failed to come to terms with the manner of his fame. Trying to balance the massive loss of life he caused, the reality that he would make the same decisions again "with the same information" and the realisation that key information was withheld from him to force his behaviour, Johnson is crawling from one Belter bar to another, almost daring somebody to start something.
Certainly one for the Expanse completist. If you liked Leviathan Wakes
there's nothing here you won't like (except perhaps you'll wish there was more of it). There's probably not much here for readers with no knowledge of the Expanse series, unless you plan to start here. The situation with the bar seems a little contrived - Johnson has to be brought low before he can rise to the role that Leviathan Wakes
has planned for him. For me, it just served as a reminder of how little I could remember of the, somewhat dense, story of that book - I may have to reread it before I move on to Caliban's War
Again, I'll end with a request for Orbit Short Fiction to pull their collective finger out and get this imprint available outside of the US. But with these stories quite so short as they are, I'd suggest that the pricing may need a 'tweak' as well if they expect people to buy books outside of established series.