A little background, I’d read Lincoln’s short story, Queen’s Blood in Manifesto UF earlier in the year. Enjoying the story, I soon after had an opportunity to tell Lincoln. He in turn asked if I’d be willing to read his short story collection, Queen. Queen’s Blood is in this collection, but it is not the reason for this book’s title. The last story in this collection is a novella titled Queen. These are my thoughts.
This is going to come off as negative, but bear with me, it’ll make sense in the end. The first story, titled D.T.F., was a little clunky and I had difficulty finding its voice. Once I found Lincoln’s voice, the story rolled easier. The characters were interesting, but I felt the story ended a little abruptly. However, with knowing this anthology told a chronological build beginning with Lincoln’s first professional publication, I found this approach both daring and uniquely interesting. Designing a collection of short stories starting with the earliest story first is a bold move because by doing so the collection begins on its weakest note. Most collections would merge the early (and generally weaker) stories somewhere into the middle.
Progressively, I enjoyed each story more than the first, but the themes in the first few stories felt a little common to other stories I’ve read. That is not completely true, I got to witness the development of Lincoln’s strong natural ability with writing speech dialects. I also saw his willingness to try common themes, yet add a new blend or twist, even if the first couple stories didn’t fully satisfy my reading needs. (Exception, Flaying Around in the Sun was a good vampire story putting a cool spin on vampire relationships within their family, and a unique punishment for insubordination.)
The first story that ‘wowed’ me was a flash-fiction piece called Three Blind Dice, a story about a bad gamble with a heavy price. The first story I loved in this collection was The Columbus Ghost Caper, a well-rounded story about the ghost of a bank robber obsessed with posthumously robbing the vaults he haunted. He had big plans for the rat bastards who’d set him up. Common to the preceding stories, this tale was rich with dialect, but the characterization, plotting, and pace had all merged impeccably. All the elements of a professional writer showed themselves in this very cool tale. Although this was a unique gem in this anthology, there are still several great stories to follow.
In a three way tie with The Columbus Ghost Caper, I’d add Seymour’s Descent and Kettletop’s Revisionary Plot for my favorites. I hadn’t expected to find a sci-fi edge in this collection, but here it is. Seymour’s Descent is a story about an advanced research robot forced to find a loophole in its programming to complete a disastrous mission—a loophole that had grim consequences. Kettletop’s Revisionary Plot was a clever time-travel tale with a scientist and his trusty Warbot coming back in time to save the world from a zombie outbreak. There is a lot of going on in Kettletop’s Revisionary Plot for a story less than 5,000-words.
Although not my favorite story in the collection, a true victory is Queen. Queen is a novella about a woman over 40 and watching her body succumb to the punishment of time, and seeking an acceptable aversion to aging. Queen was Lincoln’s most mature story in this collection. Even though the story kept its POV centered on protagonist Rita, I could sense more happening outside her scope. The subtlety of the writing made this story worthy of being a proud centerpiece.
All in all, I would recommend Queen to anyone who enjoys short stories with a touch of horror. Few of the stories (save two) were overtly gruesome, but all the tales explored darker themes of the human condition.
More so, I would highly recommend this book to any aspiring writers. Not only were the stories enjoyable, but Queen showed a beautiful scale of the evolution writers make along this grueling journey from being “a talented writer,” to achieving the role of professional author. I’ve never before seen such proof of the over-stated expression ‘just keep on writing’ like Lincoln Crisler has bravely exhibited for all of us to read, learn from, and compare.
I deeply appreciated seeing proof of this lesson from Mr. Crisler.