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The sci-fi collection “A Graveyard of Stars” shoots for the moon and lands with aplomb, offering three terrifying tales of horror in space.

Graveyard of Stars

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A Graveyard of Stars is the fifteenth book in the Dark Tide series of collected novellas, released by Joe Mynhardt’s South Africa-founded Crystal Lake Publishing. Each entry in this series takes a specific thematic approach, such as the first release by Chad Lutzke, John Boden, and Robert Ford, Wounds to Wishes: Tales of Mystery and Melancholy.

A Graveyard of Stars focuses on Sci-Fi Horror, but with a name like Crystal Lake Publishing, it’s safe to say all the entries aim to bring terror.

I’ve been part of an anthology horror series before that shared a common theme, but what Crystal Lake seems to have done here, at least with this installment, is find three authors who can write a story with plot elements in a shared universe. It creates a cohesive read with the benefit of three unique voices. It’s very much like Mark Twain aimed to do with A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage before it turned into a solo short story.

First up was Joseph Sale’s The Temple, centered around a crew on an artifact-finding mission.

To say this collection started out strong is an understatement.

The visuals are brilliant. Sale can walk around deep space without clogging your brain with exposition that’s hard to follow. He speaks a common language of science fiction that doesn’t require you to be intimately aware of a universe that exists only within his brain while also crafting a gripping, addictive story that makes you fiend for more.

His references to terrestrial words and culture make sense in the grand scheme of endless retro hounds and nostalgia hunters. He pays homage to fan-favorite genre flicks like Minority Report and wrote an ending that would lead me to bet he’s a big fan of Hellraiser while not feeling derivative.

He mines tall tales from the same quarry as Sci-Fi classics but cuts his own slab in a true space pirate adventure.

Next up was Lee Mountford’s The Station, which follows a crew on a mapping mission. I realized very quickly that we were operating within the same space. I was ready for another story that would follow through on the foreboding promise that Sale left us with.

The Station was plodding at first; part of that might have been the foreign names used. We’ll chalk that one up to my ability as a reader.

Once I could smell the danger, it was game on.

Mountford gave us a contained tale that reeked of Aliens but never felt like a rip-off. I was engaged throughout and found the protagonist, ostensibly a grunt deadheading, unique. When things get hairy, it conjures the anxiety that tingles your spine while playing a VR game like the zombie shooter Undead Arena.

Bringing that to the page shows some delicate skill. The ending was exactly what it needed to be: bleak and full of agony.

The book closes with Dan Soule’s titular tale, Graveyard of Stars.

The simplicity is horrifying. I couldn’t believe how scary a coffin floating in dead space could be. I had to stop reading to realize how “along for the ride” I was. Soule, much like Mountford, held our throat with a Xenomorph’s grip as the plot seemed to borrow elements from the world that Ridley Scott crafted. Yet, the hammer he beat us over the head with was something completely original.

It is staggering how close the writers could fly to the sun without getting burned.

They played with such a familiar space but showed the versatility to bring their style together in such a harmonious, brutal display.

I can not go on without mentioning a line that stuck with me. The only context you need is that it’s about crying in space. Soule gave this viciously beautiful thread:

“Because they couldn’t fall, they beaded and broke free with a blink to spin away on their own sad orbits.”

That’s a line that should leave you floored and unable to continue reading for a few beats.

What we’re left with is three stories, each film worthy in its own right, that will give you pause for humankind to explore the capabilities of our interstellar reach. 

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