There are fifteen stories in here, and I'm going to write something about all of them. (Probably cranky, unfair things, since that seems to be the way I'm reviewing this month -- please accept my apologies up front, and my hopes that I'll start saying nicer things sometime in March.) So I'll keep the introductory notes brief -- Jonathan Strahan is trying to jump-start the long-dead market for original anthology series (along with Lou Anders at Pyr), and good luck to him.
"Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse" by Andy Duncan
It struck me as pointless, I'm sorry to say. It's essentially a literary shaggy dog story leading up to the Paul Harvey-ish "...and that person became...Famous Writer X!" ending. I like the way Duncan writes, but "Unique Chicken" seems to rely entirely on knowing Famous Writer X (and maybe knowing more about X than just existence, which is bad for me, since I don't).
This is not a deep or profound story, but it's very enetertaining and does exactly what it needs to do. My only quibble is of the Chekov's Gun variety: it's just not done to mention vampire sex in the title and then relegate it to an off-hand backstory mention.
"The Last and Only or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French" by Peter S. BeagleA typical American man suddenly and inexplicably starts turning French.
I don't know if it's fair or not, but I get the feeling that Beagle can write this sort of wry, winding story in his sleep after all these years. It's probably actually much harder than that, but "The Last and Only" feels just like the ur-Peter Beagle story: a wry, detached tone, an atmosphere right out of the middle of the American Century, inexplicable happenings
"The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large" by Maureen F. McHugh
In the near future, a teenage boy went into a fugue state after a dirty bomb in Baltimore. Several years later, he's reunited with his mother. The story is told as if it were a newspaper column.
This is very flat and prosy. This kind of newspaper style works best for really large, unbelieveable events; the events of this story are already banal and everyday, so flattening them out even more doesn't help it. I imagine it was meant to be something like "a newspaper story from the near future," but it's a dull one from a dull, '70s-style future.
This story absolutely should not work; it's much too blatant on the one hand and non-specific on the other. And yet it does; it's easily the most moving story in Eclipse One. I have no explanations.
Very effective, very creepy. For my money, this is the heart of Eclipse One: this story and Jeff Ford's.
I might have missed the point of this story entirely; the two protagonist's voices were done well, but I hated both of them. I didn't see the appeal of the sasquatch to either of them -- it felt like a story in which things were asserted, rather than shown, and I didn't believe any of the assertions. Technically solid, but not a story I liked.
I believed the characters in this one, though they are horrible stereotypes, but I didn't see how the ending had anything to do with them, or with anything. Tree-hugging nonsense, if you ask me.
Pleasant and colorful, though it could have gone for more of a tall-tale flavor, maybe. (On the other hand, I don't know if that tone has any place in Wilce's fantasy world.)
What's the deal with destroying the Balti-Wash corridor? Dreary, quiet, and not to my taste. It's one of those character-does-something-but-it's-really-about-her-inner-journey stories, which I think are terribly overdone in SF these days. We need to get some outer journeys going.
"She-Creatures" by Margo Lanagan
The scene where the witches do...whatever...to the guy is genuinely powerful. But Lanagan refuses to explain it or have it lead anywhere, so it just floats above the story. We don't know who these guys were before, or what they were doing. We don't know who the witches are, or what they did, or what they have to do with anything. So it's one strong scene embedded in a few thousand words of not enough scene-setting, like a fan dancer whose thin, wispy fans don't actually cover anything.
Pleasant enough, but it's very slight -- it reads like something out of a Marty Greenberg anthology. (Fantastic Shrinks, anyone?)
"Mrs. Zeno's Paradox" by Ellen Klages
Clearly based on someone or other in real life, and short enough not to overstay its welcome.
"The Lustration" by Bruce Sterling
Very traditional SF, in which Sterling has his characters get down to talking about ideas for most of the story after he maneuvers them together. A story very much like this could have been sold to Campbell in 1940 -- but that's not a complaint. I'm not entirely sure the ending actually has the mood it affects to have, or has earned that mood, but the story as a whole is pretty good.
"Larissa Miusov" by Lucius Shepard
One would have to be quite generous to call this fantasy, and so it possibly doesn't precisely belong in this anthology. It's also not a great Shepard story. But even a pretty good Shepard story is something to be prized, so I won't complain.
As a whole, Eclipse One has an air of quiet competence. If only a couple of the stories (Ford and Dowling) are really good, none of them are less than professional, and even the misfires are all respectable. It's a good first outing for a new original anthology series, and I look forward to many Eclipses in years to come.