First of all, I may give away some spoilers, but, David Lee Summers in his anthology "Full-Throttle Space Tales #4: Space Horrors" does this too. This is because the contents page of this anthology is split into five titled sections, and they are "Man's Own Inhumanity", "Alien Menaces", "Seductive Vampires", "The Spirit Realm" and "Shambling Zombies", so you know what you're getting into with each story. Kinda. So, while most of these stories wouldn't be out of place in a fifties pulp or digest magazine, and while I'll try not to give too much away, I'm not really giving anything away that the book itself doesn't already give away.
*****There is a bloody mutiny, and after being imprisoned, the second-in-command of a man-shaped ambulatory planetary surveying automation has escaped his imprisonment and is loose in the innards of the vessel. In 'The Walking Man' by Glynn Barrass the crew is insane, possessed by an unknown evil, and now Sidal is trying to stop the ship and the crew from committing mass-murder on a near-by colony. This is an almost perfect pulp story merged with a sixties type of inventiveness. Four stars.
*****In the story 'Natural Selection' by Simon Bleaken, cold-fish Rebecca Aaron has no truck with the human race, so she gets a plum job studying a primitive alien race that resembles a form of giant cockroach on the hostile planet Karisoke. There is a twist at the end that will make readers and fans of Fredric Brown giddy, as the tables are turned on Aaron, and which twist would have landed this story in any issue of John Campbell's "Astounding/Analog". Four fun stars.
*****In the story 'Chosen One' by Dana Bell, a space cat and her human etch a living among the asteroids when the cat encounters an original follower of Bast. While the story starts off a little clumsily, this is still a nifty little tale that is ill-served by the "twist" ending that lowers the story a notch. I'm a slave to a cat, so this is a guilty pleasure, so four stars.
*****In the story 'Sleepers' by Selina Rosen, Joseph wakes up from his cryosleep to an emergency. Something has hit the colony transport on its way to the planet Paradise. Something that is not in the ship or the ship's crew's better interests. This is one of the stories in this anthology with no weak spots in its beginning, middle, or end; it is dystopic, and it grinds inescapably onward to its grim ending. Rosen is a truly evil, evil woman. Shame on her. Five stars.
*****'Divining Everest' by Patrick Thomas is a story in his 142nd Starborne series. Pompous, self-righteous, and possibly traitorous Major Hans Benedict has come to liberate the planet Everest. This causes him to be in conflict with ex-101st Starborne Vampire Brigade, and newly elected governor, Cyrus Langstrom, who is running a totalitarian government that is bleeding the citizens, literally, to feed the vampiric elite. Got that? Good. Now forget it, as Thomas turns it all upside down in this military story that falls into the same category as some of the non-battle oriented Hammer's Slammers stories by David Drake, only with vampires. Four and a half stars.
*****In the story 'Into The Abyss' by Dayton Ward, crewman Casey Flanagan of the good ship "Bartleby" is inside an abandoned, unidentified, and unidentifiable spaceship when he finds out that in space your crewmates can indeed hear you scream. I love a good ghost story, and this is a good one, unfortunately, the ending is a bit anti-climatic, but, if Ward were to turn this into a novel I'd read it. Four stars.
*****In a complicated way that could only be based on something that would happen in real life, in the story 'Salvage' by David B. Riley, Gomper's Insurance is having the Martian "Tau" salvage the "Lisa Marie", because the new Martian republic doesn't want Earth to get mad at them because the "Lisa Marie" is an Earth ship, but with a Martian cargo. This is a standard forties/fifties space opera, but leavened out with the type of droll humor Fredric Brown & Robert Sheckley specialized in. Fun stuff, and yes, you CAN fix anything by whacking it with a hammer. Four stars, Riley should turn this into a series.
*****In 'The Golem' by Judith Holman twelve-year-old Kayla has just watched Dog, who was abused to near death, and Bitty, her cat, jettisoned into space by her psychopathic father, and her mean-as-dirt brother Boyd. Kayla is upset by this, and for her histrionics she is beaten and threatened. Then while hiding in the ship's hold she is discovered by . . . Holman transfers Elizabeth Massie's mean and scathing takes humanity's vast depths of ignorance, stupidity, and meanness, and transfers all of it into outer space. Four stars instead of five because I think that Kayla talks like a much older child, and because I think the story could be a bit longer.
*****In the planetary system that houses the planet "Celestria" three voyages to the mining colony there have disappeared. Now it's up to mercenary Winmore Essex and his Myrmidons to get to the bottom of this mystery. What they find is something that infects and destroys, but when the people die, they will then walk and when they walk . . .
'Wake Of The White Death' by Lee Clark Zumpe gives us a crackerjack story that will please all fans of space adventure stories and zombie tales, with a twist ending that most WILL NOT see coming. I'd like to see more stories with Winmore Essex and his Myrmidons, five stars.
*****The rest of the stories in this anthology are of a lesser note, like 'Poetic Justice' by Alastair Mayer, in which the abrasive and sour Trevor Montgomery awakes on the "Raven" after a two year cryogenic nap and he's hell-bent on vengeance. This is essentially Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Cask of Amontillado', only with a less likable protagonist. and set in outer space. Mayer even rip-offs (steals) Poe's last line of 'Amontillado'. Two stars, barely.
******On the spaceship "Copernicus" in 'Listening' by Anna Paradox Selene is informed that she will taking a high paying V.I.P. stranger on the forty-one day Luna-to-Mars run. Then dangerous things start happening, crew members start getting hurt, then they start dying, and what is it that has invaded the ship? Paradox writes good sharp prose, but the ending is a bit anti-climatic, thus dropping this good pulp tale down to only three stars.
*****'Oh Why Can't I' by C. J. Henderson involves a large semi-sentient being that drifts across the universe consuming matter of all kinds and is now making its way towards the Forgeen homeworld, and it's up to Captain Alexander Benjamin Valance and his ship "Roosevelt" to stop it. We saw this type of monster in the original Star Trek's giant ameba and planet-killer stories, as written by Murray Leinster. This is pretty much a fan-fiction story that would have appeared in a second tier fifties science fiction magazine. Readable, but unremarkable. Two stars.
*****The mining ship "Caliphus" lands on A-RCK-01 amid a rust colored duststorm only to find out that the dust is more than it seems. The ship and the people are all in danger, but the problem is, that while the situation is a basic staple of good sf-adventure fiction, the characters are rather uninteresting and/or cliché. The hero of the piece, a cyborg, is especially distant and uninteresting. 'Last Man Standing' by Danielle Ackley-McPhail earns only two stars.
*****David Lee Summers is an honest-to-gosh scientist, and it shows in 'Anemia'. Unfortunately, Summers tries to marry the moody goth vampire story with space opera, and it just doesn't work. Again, we have a story with a distant, unlikable character of which I can work up no interest, with a vampire that is just a hundred percent cliché. The result is that we end up with a story that seems way too influenced by Harlequin's Nocturne series and which has a way too abrupt and anti-climatic ending. Almost earns three stars, but I won't round up. Two stars.
*****Sarah A. Hoyt give us a space zombie story in 'In The Absence Of Light' and the story and situation initially comes across as interesting, but which lost my interest as the story became rushed, and that Hoyt has no feel for the material, and that the story simply lacked the atmosphere that any good horror story should have. Again, readable, but unremarkable. Two stars.
*****Gene Mederos' similar story 'A Touch Of Frost' is slightly better, but again, it's a story that seems rushed and lacking in atmosphere, nice idea but pretty unremarkable stuff. Two stars.
*****It's been twenty years since I've read anything by Ernest Hogan and the wait wasn't worth it. 'Plan 9 In Outer Space' by Ernest and Emily Hogan involves Beevis, now without Butthead, who wants to make a sequel to the famous bad movie, but the crew don't wanna, but are forced to do so. Then disaster strikes, and most of the crew and passengers are zombified. This is a story that tries too hard to be scathing satire, but ends up being a barely readable bit of unfunny fan fiction. I hope that the authors had more fun writing this than I had reading it. One star.
Laura Givens gives us a great cover, and along with the four and five star stories, the variety of stories involved, allows me to give this anthology a four star rating.