Book Review: 'To Be Men'
The short story collect “To Be Men” was written to embody traditional values of courage, heroism, self-sacrifice and a father’s love that are too often derided in our society. The result of the editor’s work is an eclectic mix of stories by a number of authors.
“Cooper” by Monalisa Foster
Cooper is a gun with a soul desperate for an audience. A chance meeting results in the gun finding a new owner to mentor after connecting with a key person from his past.
“Earning It” by Scott Bell
The modern world too often denigrates heroism, though we do this at our peril. We celebrate true heroes taking literal, physical risks for the lives of others because it is so unusual. If we tear down and “deconstruct” heroes, attempting to make the physically and morally weak feel better by taking the stand-outs down a notch, don’t be surprised when no one steps up to take the risks to be a hero … even a cop.
It is in such a world that the main character of “Earning It” operates. However, what may be a divinely arranged encounter leads him to choose better, and that gives the rest of the world hope.
“Let the Chips Fall Where They May” by J. Trevor Robinson
This is a fifteen minutes in the future mystery-action story centering on a security chief and single father. What is fascinating is how the robbers use technology that already exists or is nearly available as part of the crime.
“The Heaven Beasts” by William Burns
Sometimes all a supernatural creature wants to do is become a creator … a Father. However, his demonic past comes back to haunt him – literally.
“Closure” by Karina Fabian
I’ve read Karina Fabian’s “Space Traipse” series, a Star Trek parody, from the beginning. I’ve reviewed her science fiction novel “Discovery”. What I was not familiar with was her DragonEye PI series of fantasy stories. In that universe, a human woman runs a Private Investigation firm with a dragon and Christianity based magic. Here, she loans her dragon to a friend to try to aid a friend. This is a funny magical legal drama, and I know how rare those things are in combination. And to top it all off, the story is PG.
“Somewhere to Put It Down” by Michael Herbert
This is the first R rated story in the anthology by Herbert, though it is not his only story in the collection. A war vet finds himself trying to protect a young woman when no one else around her is quite able to deal with the horrors of real life or the tragedy of lost innocence. While I despise the over-use of trigger warnings, one is appropriate here – it involves rape of a teenager.
“The Last Hunt” by Paolinelli
There are a number of adages that try to say that all violence is bad, that all war and ending of another human’s life is evil. Reality is, to quote Denis Prager, “those who do not confront evil resent those who do.” The Allies went to war to stop both the Nazi killing machine and the Japanese atrocities in World War 2. Liberals seek to send soldiers into war to end genocides, though they do not call it war; they don’t want to admit that “peace-keeping” often requires violence.
Paolinelli’s short story is in the same vein but takes a novel approach to the concept. Would you kill one person to save a million? We can say that about Hitler and time machines now, but what if it was truly such a circumstance? A hunter is asked to kill the few escaped infected to save the likely last remnants of humanity, knowing he may never go back to his own family. But he risks his life to save those back home and everyone else for the good of us all.
“The Affair of Miss Finney” by Ann Margaret Lewis
This is a Sherlock Holmes mystery with a minor twist. Watson’s wife is a critical aid in the investigation of a lady’s rape. Despite that delicate topic, the story manages to be PG and within the Holmes style. That’s quite an accomplishment.
“In Defense of Restraint” by Megan Fox
Modern society tries to deny the darker impulses of humanity, that if we try to educate, lecture, hector, regulate and make people afraid, their dark side won’t come out. This ignores the fact that negative emotions suppressed don’t go away but come out in other, more sinister forms. Passive-aggressive abuse of someone is exactly this. Instead of denying human instinct, all healthy civilizations teach people – especially men – to harness their emotions and direct them to useful pursuits. You tame the dragon, not try to bury it. You channel the emotion to socially constructive forms, and this is done in part by teaching men restraint so they don’t go outside the boundaries. This non-fiction essay discusses that concept in detail.
I recommend Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life” for anyone who wants to go into this subject in depth.
“For Man or Beast” by Brad Torgersen
A classic survival story on the frontier … of an alien planet. A wise older man finds he’s the only one left to protect the kids, whether they think they need him or not. They do.
“Street Fox” by C.J. Brightly
This story set in the author's Erdemen Honor universe shows how important fatherly role models can be both for their biological children and those they choose to mentor. And a father's choice to save a child can ripple through an entire society in unexpected ways.
“Bring the Pain” by T. L. Knighton
While T.L. Knighton has written a variety of novels, this is a standalone modern fantasy story. A fight in bar quickly escalates to a supernatural level. And then the cybernetic tank is called in …
“The Messenger” by L. A. Behm II
This is a post-apocalyptic story. A warlord pretending to be a remembered but likely lost hero encounters … the real hero back from his retirement in the woods, because people need him.
“Picture Imperfect” by Marina Fontaine
This short story is set in her “Chasing Freedom” universe. What would a good father be willing to do to protect his son? And what does it cost in a world that has no room for the imperfect?
“Courage” by Michael Herbert
This is another military short story. I can’t summarize it without giving away the plot or going PG-13. The story itself is a strong R.
“Compassion” by Jon Del Arroz
I’ve read and reviewed other works by Jon Del Arroz, notably “The Gravity of the Game” and “Rescue Run”. This story isn’t set in either of those universes. Instead, it features a future where a variation of the Knights Templar go in search of one high-value hostage and end up with something even better – a possible bridge between two warring factions.
“Priorities” by Jamie Ibson
This is a cute little family drama set in the modern era. That’s really all I can say without giving it away.
“Man Made Hell” by Julie Frost
This story is unusual for involving werewolves in space, though the writer apparently writes quite a bit of that thing. Why would a werewolf be in space? To escape the forced changes of the moon, of course.
However, werewolves may still change. Furthermore, they remain hated because of their condition. The central character struggles to survive and retain his soul even as he doubts his sanity.
Whether looking for a short story collection that harkens back to pulp era fiction or a few politically incorrect stories, "To Be Men" is a great addition to your book collection. Because several of the stories are rated R, I cannot recommend it for kids under 13.
© 2018 Tamara Wilhite