Swashbuckling from the past into the future and space itself, Fast Ships, Black Sails, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, presents an incredibly entertaining volume of original stories guaranteed to make you walk and talk like a pirate.
Come along for the voyage with bestselling authors Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, Carrie Vaughn, Dave Freer, Michael Moorcock, and Eric Flint, as well as such other stellar talents as Kage Baker, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, Steve Aylett, and Conrad Williams–all offering up a veritable treasure chest of piratical adventure, the likes of which has never been seen in the four corners of the Earth. Highlights include a brand-new Garth Nix Sir Hereward & Mr. Fitz novella, as the two clever ne’er-do-wells storm the sea-gates of the scholar-pirates of Sarkoe.
If ever you had a yearning for adventure on the high seas, now’s the time to indulge it, with Fast Ships, Black Sails. You’ll return with a sword shoved through your sash, booty in a safe harbor, and beer on your breath. We promise.
I like pirate stories, they have this quality about them that instantly draws me to them. I’ll be honest and say I don’t read half as much as I should do when it comes to this subject, but what I have read in the past has always given me that warm feeling inside that I get when I really enjoy something. It’s not only books that do this, films also find their way into the house at some point or other, and nothing beats a good old pirate story. So, a collection of such stories should be something I would enjoy more than anything else, or at least I thought so. Fast Ships, Black Sails hit the mark on a few occasions, but on others it didn’t come close…
In their introduction Ann and Jeff VanderMeer say how they were surprised at the breadth and difference of stories they received for the anthology. I can certainly agree with them on that point – there are many stories that are not your typical pirate tales. While this is a good thing for the sake of diversity, I found that some of the stories just didn’t live up to the potential of the anthology and it left me disappointed because of this fact. However, the stories in here that I did enjoy were excellent and showed just how such a diversity can help a collection like this.
Some of my favourites were: Boojum by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, a story of space age pirates aboard a sentient starship; Castor on Troubled Waters by Rhys Hughes, an amusing story of one man telling a tale to his two friends in a pub; Araminta, or, The Wreck of the Amphidrake by Naomi Novik, a tale of a woman using magic to turn herself into a man when the ship she is aboard is attacked by pirates; The Adventures of Captain Black Heart Wentworth: A Nautical Tail by Rachel Swirsky, a great story looking at two pirate rats in love with a cat; The Whale Below by Jayme Lynn Blaschke, a story of a ship stumbling on the remains of a whale with three mysteriously empty ships surrounding it.
I did enjoy other stories in this anthology, but those were the highlights for me. There were a few that I just didn’t care for and couldn’t really tell you much about them as they didn’t stick in my mind much at all once I’d finished them. I’d have to say that this is a collection of stories that have split me down the middle when it comes to my thoughts on the whole anthology. Those that I enjoyed were top notch, but those I didn’t felt like a waste of my time. Is this an anthology I’d recommend? Well, yes, but with reservations.