Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tommy's Take on The API Anthology Vol. 1

This is kind of new territory for me...reviewing a fiction anthology, as opposed to an RPG product.

Hopefully it turns out better than my attempt at reviewing a video game the other day.

The API Anthology is the first anthology release by Third Eye Games for their Apocalypse Prevention Inc. setting (reviews of which can be found on my blog).

The API Anthology is a PDF clocking in at 92 pages with 9 stories featuring a few names that I recognize from the game industry and a few names that I don't...I'm cool with that: Everyone's gotta start somewhere, and I hear anthologies can be a great starting point.

The Apocalypse Prevention Inc. setting is a modern action-horror setting that is dominated largely by the very "Men in Black" type organization that hunts, captures and kills the demons that would threaten humanity. Every story in the anthology is set in this world, though not all of them necessarily revolve around the organization.

As is always the case with works featuring multiple authors, you are going to get different levels of work.

Unfortunately (or not, depending) the book begins with the weakest entry "Jezebel Sly, Private Investigator", with the titular character being beholden to working API cases after she gets involved in a supernatural incident. The story is a missing persons case with an API twist, but the authors attempts at making the main character jaded and cynical work too well...to the point that I honestly didn't like any character in the story.

"Girl Trouble" was another story that I had trouble with, for similar reasons. The heroic motivation of the protagonist never quite felt "real", and the payoff line at the end felt a bit cheesy and forced. This story, like the first, also cast API in a negative light, with the antagonist being a Burner serving as an API Agent. That said, the protagonist - an Oracle, who have bad luck effects on people around them - did have a VERY cool moment at the climax with the API agent.

"Back for Seconds" and "Fish on Dry Land" really capture the quirky, off-beat humor of the API universe, which is really not surprising with the former, as it was written by Brennan Bishop who has contributed some of the most disgusting aspects of the API universe (I'm not picking on him! He bragged about it!) and so his tale of Changelings as delicassies really hits on the black humor of the setting. "Fish on Dry Land" does a great job of portraying an overworked API unit and stars a Loch named Elvis. Both were entertaining reads, with humor intermixed with quirky drama.

"The Difference A Day Makes" features an API squad against a group of unlikely rivals with some very interesting pasts. I recognized the author, Rucht Lilavivat from White Wolf's Ravenloft line, and they did a very nice job of putting forth characters I actually wanted to read about...especially the laconic (until he needs to not be) Al. I liked both "teams" in the story, and thought it had a very nice payoff.

"Shut Up & Fish" has one of the smallest API presences in the book, but is a favorite of mine as it draws on the API Canada sourcebook, touching on The Thing Under The Ice (specifically, its effect on some poor saps who encounter it at sea).

"Failure To Communicate", ironically (or intentionally), does the best job in the book of presenting a situation from both sides: A wolf person trying to keep from losing control, and the pair of API Agents who try to stop him when he does. I particularly thought that the author did a great job of conveying the "change" in the wolf person's internal monologue.

"Loch, Stock, and Barrel" by Clint Black of Pinnacle Entertainment is probably the best offering in the book from a pure story stand point. The storytelling is tighter here than anywhere else, it hinges on a huge issue in the setting (Lochs and their difficulties reproducing) and one of the main characters undergoes a very noticeable change from the beginning of the story to the end.

That said, "The Pact" probably hit me the most with its sudden, abrupt ending. I can't say it was one I had never seen before, but the resolution surprised me with its execution, and in a good way.

The editing really needed to be tighter in a lot of places, with my eye catching typos here and there...and it seemed like there was probably an underuse of commas. In one story, I'm reasonably sure that a word got unintentionally invented. There was also an inconsistency in capitalizing the names of the demon races...for uniformity, I would have either capitalized all of them or none of them.

On a format note, I sideloaded the PDF into my Barnes & Noble nook, and the conversion process wasn't the smoothest, with my order watermark showing up at every page break (which was sometimes in the middle of the page) and one story have some odd fontal squishing going on. I'm not counting this as a knock against the anthology, mind you, just an observation...I'd love to see a release in epub format as well.

With much more good than bad, I would not be disappointed at all to see this truly just be volume 1, and for us to get volume 2 in the future. If you like API, or if you like reading action/horror fiction, it's a good buy.

1 comment:

  1. Guilty as charged.
    The next story I want to do is about Monster suicide prevention and we all know how well that will end up in my hands...