Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear is quite a mixed bag as far as story content and style goes, not entirely surprising given that it's unthemed. When I was reading, it was impossible to guess what sort of story would come next.
My favourite stories were the quirkier ones. "History: Theory and Practice" by Dave Luckett and "The Travelling Salesman and the Farmer’s Daughter" by Katherine Cummings both involved a serious set up leading to more than initially met the eye. "Murder at the Tip" by Anna Tambour, "Mary Had a Unicorn" by Ripley Patton and "Hard Cases" by Sean McMullen took an offbeat premise and followed it through to the obvious conclusion without flinching. I particularly liked "Mary Had a Unicorn" although I can't say I'd want to live in that world with drugs so prevalent. On the other hand, "Hard Cases" gave me a bit more vicarious glee than is probably healthy.
Two other stories I quite liked (and which don't really fall in the quirky category) were "Faet's Fire" by Thoraiya Dyer, which had beautiful writing, and "Kindling" by Kathleen Jennings, which was a pleasant wander through the lives of bar patrons. I should also mention "Bone Chime Song" by Joanne Anderton, which is excellent, but which I skipped in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear since I'd already read it.
More thoughts on each story, recorded as soon as I finished reading it, below. Overall, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear is a diverse anthology which showcases a variety of stories and authors. I recommend it to fans of short fiction, perhaps looking for diverse reads in one single package.
"Bone Chime Song" by Joanne Anderton — previously read and reviewed, when I said "Eerie, well imagined. A complete world glimpsed through a short story."
"Five Ways to Start a War" by Sue Bursztynski — a tale of gods meddling in the lives of men and the real cause of the Trojan War. Interesting changes of perspective with each section.
"History: Theory and Practice" by Dave Luckett — Packed with a surprising amount of historical detail, an amusing story set in the Dark Ages. The protagonist is more than meets the eye. Enjoyed the reveal.
"D___d" by Adam Brown — exploration and industrialisation of hell. Sort of. Didn't quite do it for me (purely subjective reaction).
"The Travelling Salesman and the Farmer’s Daughter" by Katherine Cummings — Cute science fiction story with all the right elements. Travelling scout recruiting lost planets to the galactic empire. I expected a twist, but didn't quite pick it.
"Faet's Fire" by Thoraiya Dyer — A farm, a coal seam, a girl, a boy and Faet, a bird monster. Very well written and an enjoyable read, a little dark.
"Murder at the Tip" by Anna Tambour — About the horrors that could ensue were the irritating machines in our lives sentient and granted personhood. (Ironically, this was the story my Kobo chose to misbehave on.)
"The Subjunctive Case" by Robert Porteous — a detective story about a mysterious murder and a detective who can split himself into two parallel universe investigations.
"Mary Had a Unicorn" by Ripley Patton — a story set in a world in which drugs are particularly prevalent and unicorns have been genetically engineered to search and destroy them.
"Between the Lines" by Brenda Cooper — a story about conspiracies and hope in the future. I didn't find it entirely believable and it reminded me a bit of Cold War SF. Not a bad story, though.
"The Godbreaker and Unggubudh the Mountain" by Ian McHugh — a story of power struggles between fantasy creatures and mountain gods. Fight scenes a bit protracted for a short story.
"Hard Cases" by Sean McMullen — a story about a group of people taking a hard stand against the kind of people who refuse to believe in global warming. I enjoyed it, perhaps thanks to a bit of vicarious activism. Ahem.
"Kindling" by Kathleen Jennings — a story about paths crossing and diverging. A barmaid with a knack for bringing people together. I quite liked it.
First published: 2012, Peggy Bright Books
Format read: ePub on all the devices
Source: A review copy provided courtesy of the editors