Short story anthologies generally start strong and end long. In other words, they put their best story up front and then give readers a chance to linger at the end. Unfortunately the editor of Powers, a new superhero anthology, didn’t follow this well-worn formula.
The collection kicks off with a little story called “Crappy Birthday.” Despite the great title, it’s the worst thing in the book. The story’s surprise ending isn’t surprising or clever or anything else. What a dud. Perhaps the editor should have gone with “Super Cleaners” instead. It’s not much of a story either, but it does provide an unexpected and satisfying conclusion. Plus, it’s guaranteed to make all the ladies in the house say “Yeah!” Powers also presents a trio of neo-pulp adventures early on. Of the three, “The Night Ghost Returns” probably holds together the best (barely). But overall, these three stories are banking on the reader’s preexisting pulp affection and forgiving nature.
Thankfully, the book picks up steam with each new story. And once you’ve passed the troublesome novella at the book’s center, the stories get markedly better. In fact, there are some shiny nuggets buried near the back of the book—specifically, and in order of appearance, “Space Scouts” by David Perlmutter, “Spandex” by Alexander Bentley, “Maxed” by Bradley Descartes and “Fanaticism” by Gary Buettner. The final story by Luke Johnson is quite good too. Perhaps the editor was trying to build momentum one story at a time? Maybe he wanted to start low and end on a plateau? It’s hard to say. To paraphrase a character from “Family Secrets”: Powers is a merely okay book, nuthin’ super about it.
[Powers / Edited by Jay Faulkner / First Printing: December 2010 / ISBN: 9781617060717]