WORLDS LONG LOST Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander explores the ruins of lost civilizations, solves ancient mysteries and awakens horrors from beyond the dawn of time. All without leaving his couch!
There’s something so entrancing about looking at things that are ancient. You know, without a doubt, that there were people with lives just as vivid as our own, but transposed millennia in the past, a sort of sonder with a temporal dimension. That, then, must be the reason as to why we keep on thinking that the notion of the ancient makes a good story in the speculative genres, as those genres are the best tool I know for showing the consequences of deep time (although some epic historical novels, such as those of the likes written by James Michener or Edward Rutherfurd can certainly hold a candle). It is that very subject that Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard (who is, for full disclosure, a friend of mine) showcase in Worlds Long Lost, an anthology to be published on December 6th, 2022, by Baen Books.

The dynamic duo of editors have assembled quite the collection of authors. They’ve snagged D. J. Butler, a regular Baen writer whose work I have reviewed for this site twice (In the Palace of Shadow and Joy and Abbott in Darkness), who here has provided the opening to a future novel co-written with M. A. Rothman. Patrick Chiles, author of the near-future novel Frontier, also reviewed on this site by yours truly, has also dipped his hat in the ring, as has Brian Trent, an author whose short stories I have enjoyed frequently. Sean Patrick Hazlett, the first author in Warped Factor’s Author Talk feature, has a story here, and Christopher Ruocchio himself provides a new story set in his Sun Eater universe. Most prominently, the two have gotten a new story from Orson Scott Card, most famous for his novel Ender’s Game.

There’s an immense variety of ancients found in these stories, many of which are hostile enough to be properly described as a rogues’ gallery. Sometimes, humanity is playing god; sometimes, they are finding gods (or entities that are perhaps more malicious). Sometimes, they find things far closer to themselves than is comfortable, as is the case in two stories. Fans of H. P. Lovecraft will be pleased to hear that a number of stories take a strong influence from the Cthulhu mythos and his style of cosmic horror more generally.

The stories are, by the nature of the medium, quite short, but they all impressively reach a level of character development and conceptual rigor that equals the best of the genre (a genre that has often been at home at such short lengths). My favorite among a strong selection was the one that goes deep into the relationship between two ex-flames while one of them reckons with a peculiar discovery in her backyard - and this is all told as a series of emails and phone call transcripts! Another one I liked was Adam Oyebanji’s story which kicks off the anthology, which feels like something from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, in the best way possible.

Ruocchio and Korsgaards have shown themselves to have the taste and the discernment of master vintners, going through the grapevine of the science fiction genre to find the sweetest berries. Worlds Long Lost is no mere vinegar, but the finest vintage you can find today. If science fiction were wine, this anthology sparkles, both like champagne, and like the stars in the heavens.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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