This little anthology edited by Denise Little jumped out at me last time I ended up wandering around Barnes and Noble, looking for something a little different to read. I couldn't help it-- the cover just snagged me. Two star-fighter looking ships cruising over dramatic and cloud-greyed urban sky with some magenta-clad reporter-type standing there looking at them. I figured hey, what the heck, right? It's been a long time since I've read any military sci-fi, and this book promises 21 all new installments of it!
But then I started reading it.
Okay, so it never actually says that it's just sci-fi-- the official line is "21 all new tales of what it means to serve in a war zone." and if I'd bothered to read the back cover, I would have discovered the fact that there's about as much fantasy and other bizarrity (I have nothing against fantasy, just prefer science fiction) in the pages of "Front Lines" as anything else. But then, how many people would read military-oriented sci-fi as compared to military-oriented fantasy, and even if the numbers were anywhere near comparable, how would you put a cover on it that snared both sides without something dorky looking like laser-shooting unicorns? Ah, but that's neither here nor there.
"Front Lines" was fun to read. There were a few chills and thrills and a few laughs and smug smiles to be had, with the usual one or two stories that read like a soldier's account of Iraq cloaked in a thin layer of sci-fi or someone's D&D match, but all in all I enjoyed it. Sucked it right down, even. Being an English tutor and someone who edits his own writing, I of course spotted a handful of errors, but not enough to really detract from the storylines.
There are a few tales that stand out foremost in my mind. "Peacekeeping Mission" by Laura Resnick was a little strange at first, but by the time I got into it I was rolling -- Using political and pop knowledge in a way that truly reaches the people, Resnick turns the world upside down and presents a scenario where America and Canada are at one another's throats in a jihad-esque scenario and the Israelies and Palestinians are parachuted in to attempt to convince the blood-thirsty armies of North America to put down their arms and end the conflict. Another favorite was "Dinner on a Flyin' Saucer," though it was a bit tedius at times (drunken man from small town comes home to shotgun-wielding housewife and claims the UFOs abducted him to feed him dinner and ask directions) and "The Battle for Trehinnick's Garden" was, for lack of a better word, awesome. Probably my favorite in the book. "The War, Me, 17 Million Dollars and a Stripper" was also memorable, with an interesting plot twist that turned something all too like the film Starship Troopers into "Stay out of the way of the pissed off sand lice" and "Eye of the Falcon" would probably have changed the way I look at manholes forever, if C.H.U.D. hadn't already done that.
All in all, I enjoyed the book, so I give it a good four stars out of five. Not perfect, but worth the eight bucks I dropped on it.