Leyfarers and Wayfarers is a collection of 16 stories (in a variety of genres) by G L Francis. As usual for my bookends series of posts, I read the first and last stories, then made a decision whether to continue.
First Story: Tools of the Trade
In this steampunk tale, Russian water spirits are killing people in Kansas City, Missouri during the late 19th / early 20th century. A Russian immigrant family of inventors (and some elves) try to kill the spirits.
I enjoyed the historical fiction setting and many elements of the plot, but I felt the author was forcing a novel’s worth of work into a short story. I often read novels which I think should be cut down to something shorter; in this rare case, I’d recommend expansion. There are extensive character backgrounds, brief hints of romance, and other things that would flesh out a novel, but stretch the boundaries of a short story. The climactic battle scene wouldn’t have to end the story, as it leaves room for the losing side to slink away and fight again. In my opinion, this story would make a promising novel.
Last Story: Triptych: We of Starlight Ships
In this story, a planet is heading into an ice age, and won’t be able to support its human population. The people and animals need to be evacuated (in stasis) on slow colony ships. A few elves are discovered living in the jungle, and as they are extremely long-lived, they make ideal crew for the ships.
Governments and corporations are combined to create an entity which runs the shipbuilding and evacuation process. The author doesn’t focus on this, but as I read, I realized that all the crises later in the story were caused by short-sighted, heartless, and/or stupid decisions by this entity. Think of how corrupt your own government is, or how bureaucratic your employer is. Then think about how much worse multinational organizations are (FIFA, IOC, UN). Now imagine a similar organization in control of an entire planet’s economic output.
I’m reminded of several demotivators by Despair, Inc.. Here are a couple of particularly relevant ones:
Getting back to the story… As implied by its title, it’s broken into three sub-stories, each revolving around one of the colony ships. About halfway through the first sub-story, I realized the ship was headed towards a disaster, making me say “noooooo…..”. The second sub-story mostly revolves around people trying to work around or subvert horrible policies. The third sub-story goes back to facing disaster. I’m leaving out specifics concerning the individual characters and plots to avoid spoilers, but I think most readers will empathize with these characters facing difficult/impossible situations.
To read, or not to read?
I will definitely continue reading this collection. The writing is professional-quality; I wasn’t distracted by poor grammar or confusing sentence structure. More importantly, I enjoyed the worlds in the stories I read, and I’m curious to see what else is in there.