Review of "A Jar of Mixed Treats," short story collection by Michael Kingswood
Summary:A collection of five short stories. Included in this collection are:
Lords of the Remnant.
- Aliens strike at the Centauri colony, overrunning it completely. Then, sooner than anyone imagined they could, they arrived at Earth to continue their conquest. An infantryman, certain resistance is futile, nevertheless deploys with his unit to fight against the first wave of invaders. As his comrades die around him and all hope seems lost, he finds the courage to fight on, but is confronted with a choice that will not only affect his own future, but that of all mankind as well.
How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress
- Larian, a young soldier fresh from the Martial Academy, goes home on leave to find his village attacked by brigands and his girl kidnapped. He immediately sets out to rescue her, but things do not quite go as planned. This is a fantasy short story of gallantry, daring, swordplay, and romance.
A Chat Before Dinner
- The record of a Zombie’s rant about the trials and tribulations of his life as a disrespected member of the Undead. His rant centers around humans’ inherent racism, and he attempts to cajole his human listener into understanding his point of view. Darkly humorous and snarky, this story paints a new picture of a Zombie’s life.
- An assassin and his partner embark on the biggest job of their careers. The payment if they succeed is enough to set them up for life, potentially allowing the assassin to get out of the business and finally live a normal life. But even succeeding in a high profile job like this carries its own danger.
- Larian Elesir, a young recruit in the Citizens' Army, arrives at his first post. Eager to join the war effort, he is nonetheless nervous in his new environment and worried about setting a foot wrong. During his first day in camp, his new companions put him through his paces as they both learn who he is and teach him the basics he'll need to survive in his job in the army.
The cover is slightly misleading. All of the stories in this collection are "soldier" stories though they all take place in different time periods. However, this delightful collection is aptly named. I really did feel like each story was its own little treat.
Kingswood has an excellent writing voice that keeps you engaged from beginning to end with every story. Unlike some of his war author counterparts, he doesn't get bogged down with every single depressing detail. Every story was fun and fast paced. I genuinely looked forward to reading the next story in the collection after I finished the current one.
I only really have one complaint about this collection and that is the story Kingswood chose to end it with. The final tale, Measuring Up, seems to be a continuation of a character introduced in an earlier story, How NOT to Rescue a Damsel in Distress. While the first story is self-contained, the continuation is not. It feels like Kingswood used the story as the beginning of what could easily be a serial action tale. As serial action, I think these stories have a lot of promise. As the finale to a collection of self-contained stories, it felt a little out of place.
Other than that, I would highly recommend this collection.
Reviewed by Alain Gomez