Thanks to all five authors for giving me an ARC. The review, however, is not sponsored and the words represent only my personal opinion.
To put it simply, In Ruin is a collection of chapters from five different novels. These aren’t short stories but the beginnings of novels around a Dark Dystopian theme, each ending with cliff-hangers. The premise of these stories ranges from War Of the Worlds type Aliens to The Hunger Games type of Dystopian society, all with one or more mature elements including sex (obviously), suicide, murder, brain wipe, hysteria and so on.
Overall, this anthology makes for a good book with mostly gripping penmanship. Stories do have varying degrees of charm so the result is a couple stories where I find myself yearning to read the author’s full vision in an upcoming novel, and stories which I would surely give a pass.
The Divine Beasts: M. Reeds’ Alien Invasion story describes the horror of murdering, mutilating aliens invading Earth and slaughtering humans. The ease with which the author describes the harrowing events is amazing. You feel the protagonist’s tension and gut-wrenching terror of knowing she will die a gruesome death now. The melancholy of lone survival and the defiance in the face of death are very compellingly written.
The second part of the story is completely different, though, and it goes to show the story is but an introduction to this world. The cliff-hanger ending comes at the zenith of explicit tease. This is intriguing enough to look forward to the full story.
Xena’s Medallion: Aura Bud’s futuristic dystopian divided society story is the best out of the five stories in this anthology in my opinion. Although a bit predictable, the story depicts depths of human emotion very sharply. The emotional tension between two lost lovers and the sexual culmination are very moving and fulfilling. The setup of war for survival keeps the events crisp and the reader’s attention taut. The full story is set to release as a novel in 2023 and I am really looking forward to it.
His Alien Flower: N K Allen’s Alien, Mind Control, Fated Mate story is the weakest one in the anthology. Mature and explicit sexual contents notwithstanding, the plot drivers and some story elements feel more like young adult fantasy than the dark dystopian fiction that I expected. I shall pass on the full story, if it came out as a novel.
Death of The Angler: T G Grem’s world is a mix of Victorian era society with elements of dictatorship and rebellion. The lead titular character is extremely well written in the limited number of pages. And the title: the title is fulfilled in the very last line of the story (or the part of the story that is in this anthology) and it is goosebumps inducing. My second favourite story in the anthology. This is a gripping story even without any explicit or implied sex, but there is no shortage of grit and grue in this story of one person’s defiance against a dictator.
The romance element was unexpected and sweet. It is something that will surely feature more prominently in the full novel, but in the core, this is the story of strength in the face of maniacal cruelty.
Curse of Betrayal: Celeste T’s Shapeshifter romance has elements of random murder and violence (and sex) - but it lacks depth. The casual outlook of the protagonist actually reflects into the story, too. Out of the five stories, Curse of Betrayal is the only one with some comedy. That is a nice change of pace, but, again, with the limited number of pages, with the incomplete story, it all seemed a bit random.
The tone and the premise aside, the writing is quite good. The cliff-hanger surely left me wanting more but the portion of the story available in this anthology did not, in my opinion do justice to the story title, nor the genre.
With this brief about the individual stories, I must repeat to say that collectively, the book is a gripping read. Although I couldn't finish it in one sitting, I finished it in one day. I would surely recommend it for readers who don't feel squeamish about mature and dark stuff.
The book comes out on 01-Oct-2022