After ten novels in his ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ series, it’s unsurprising that Adrian Tchaikovsky has a few short stories up his sleeve that make further use of the amazing world he built up for that series. Some of the stories in ‘Spoils Of War’, the first in a planned series of ‘Tales Of The Apt’, give the reader an insight into characters featured in those novels, some provide a bit of history to events given only a passing mention and some really stand on their own as an introduction to the world.
Presented roughly in chronological order, the stories are each presented with a few notes from Tchaikovsky as an afterword, giving an extra insight into why they’re included in this collection, how they link in with the main series and other titbits of information. I found these to be an interesting addition, not often found in a short story collection, and it felt like a nice touch for Tchaikovsky to take the time to explain a bit more to his readers.
What I’ve always loved about the ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ series is the blend between magical and technological elements and one of the stories that stood out for me features a nice little exploration of this. It’s the last story in the book, but ‘Brass Mantis’ is by no means the least. It tells the story of a Beetle engineer who is trying to build a machine to replicate the fighting style of a Mantis weaponsmaster. Hiring Tisamon (who will be familiar to those who’ve read the main series) to engage her machine in battle, it’s a real display of engineering versus aptitude, but it also has some emotional notes in there, too. At just over 13 pages long, it packs a big punch in a very short space.
‘Camouflage’ was another story that stuck with me, I think because it was interesting to see some of the less common species featuring prominently for a change. The Auxilian Pioneers are a motley crew of multiple races that serve as soldiers with an uncertain status but a fierce reputation among the Wasp armies. In this story, one Wasp is given command of 10 pioneers that include a Thorn Bug woman, Cari, who is highly skilled at her job. Yet Cari has her own agenda and, while she serves with loyalty, she also holds grudges for a very long time. It was interesting to follow her journey and see how it all turned out for her and the men she served with. I definitely had a smile on my face at the end of this one.
One that I thought stood quite well as a story on its own was ‘The Dreams Of Avaris’. It tells of a band of greedy mercenaries who have directions to a secret hoard of treasure and are ready to go and do some looting. What starts out as an easy way to make some money, quickly turns into a spine-tingling ghost story and the atmosphere in this one was particularly well developed. It was easy to get along with the characters and be drawn along on their adventure and I loved the way the story changed its tone over the course of its short length.
That is just a small selection from the 13 stories in this book. They are all well-written and each gave extra insight into the world of the Apt that I came to love over the course of the main series. It’s great to revisit familiar places and characters and I look forward to seeing what else Tchaikovsky reveals in the next instalment.
(pub: Newcon Press, 2016 252 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $18.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-901935-21-7)
check out website: www.newconpress.com