Mythic: Quality makes up for quantity in this anthology

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review anthology Mike Allen MythicMythic edited by Mike Allen

While a relatively short anthology, what Mythic lacks in quantity is more than made up for with the quality of its selections. Each poem and story stands out as well as fitting the “mythic” tone the book is attempting to capture. Right from the very start, I was already enamored by the opening poem, “Syllables of Old Lore” by Vandana Singh and Mike Allen keeps the interest, flow, and beat consistent throughout the volume.

There are some editorial choices I’d like to highlight. The first is the sequencing. The poems alternate with the short stories and, if you’re like me who reads anthologies in the sequence they’re presented, this formula works. I can imagine my interest waning if I was barraged with poems initially followed by short stories and vice versa. As it is, Mythic gives readers enough time to digest and appreciate the poem that preceded it before moving into short story territory. The alternation keeps the reading experience refreshing. Admittedly, the length of the book (under 200 pages) also helps. Mythic is the type of book that you can read in one sitting and it keeps you mesmerized the whole time.

The second item worthy to note is that the poems and stories are consistently readable and easy to understand. The poems aren’t threatening to those of us who don’t often read poetry and the short stories are relatively short reads, with a few delving into experimental territory, such as “Of the Driving Away of a Certain Water Monster by the Virtue of the Prayers of the Holy Man or What Really Happened at Loch Ness in the Summer of 565 A.D,” by Bud Webster. I also noticed that Allen included some authors twice (e.g., Singh and Theodora Goss). Not many anthologies do repetitions and I think Mythic is a stronger anthology because of this inclusion.

Here are the top three poems and short stories that caught my eye: “Kristallnacht” by Lawrence Schimel played with my expectations and usurped the Cinderalla myth for his own. Aside from having a steady beat, Schimel ties it with the Jewish experience, giving this simple verse an extra layer of depth and cultural identity.

Catherynne M. Valente‘s “The Eight Legs of Grandmother Spider” features two parallel narratives; one has a fable feel while the other has more modern sensibilities. Much like “Kristallnacht,” Valente plays with the reader’s expectations, not only thematically tying the two poem-stories together, but taking them into a truly horrifying yet beautiful direction.

Erzebet YellowBoy’s “Misha and the Months” is one of the stories that stand out. Subversion seems to be a common theme of the anthology and this one is no different. Using old tropes, YellowBoy turns them around which makes for an interesting and refreshing story.

Overall, Mythic is a great anthology that could serve as the perfect “breather” when you’re overwhelmed by thick novels and collections. This isn’t a “meaty” book when it comes to length, but I think that’s a strength of Mythic. You get the best of the best, a consistent theme, and accessible language.

FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.

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CHARLES TAN, one of our guest reviewers, is the owner of the blogs Bibliophile Stalker and Comic Quest. He also edits Philippine Speculative Fiction. You can read his fiction in that publication and in The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Charles has conducted interviews for The Nebula Awards and The Shirley Jackson Awards, as well as for online magazines such as SF Crowsnest and SFScope. He is a regular contributor to sites like SFF Audio and Comics Village.

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