"SNAFU: Heroes: An Anthology of Military Horror" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Cohesion Press
Written by Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, James A. Moore, and Joseph Nassise
214, 158 pages, Fiction
Released on October 31st, 2014
Liking a book you expected to like is good, but having a good time reading something you didn't expect to enjoy is great. The latter is what happened to me with SNAFU: Heroes. The military subgenre has never been my cup of tea. In fact, much like Lovecraftian fiction, I think there's just too much mediocrity going around in it and that makes finding gems a little hard. I decided to give this one a shot because I knew that Jonathan Maberry and Weston Ochse always deliver top-notch fiction, and Joseph Nassise and James A. Moore quickly showed me they have the same ability.
The anthology kicks things off with "The Hungry Dark" by Joseph Nassise. This one deals with a small group of modern Knight Templars that get sent to the remote village of Durbandorf, in the Black Forest, to look into reports of strange creatures. The group stumbles upon more than they bargained for and quickly find themselves trapped with a group of survivors who expect them to be their saviors and rescue them from the arachnid demos overrunning the place. The heavy religious tones here worried me at the beginning because after that Da Vinci book, everyone wanted to write about religion. However, tight dialogue, lots of action, and super characterization soon put me at ease.
Next comes Weston Ochse's contribution, "Tarzan Doesn't Live Here Anymore", and the action and gore just get bigger and faster. In Ochse's tale, humanity struggles to keep whatever creatures come from the bottom of the Sonoran Rift from causing too much death. With a few flashbacks that speak of the main character's love for Tarzan as a child and action that falls somewhere between an alien invasion movie and echoes of movies like Pacific Rim, this narrative delivers great entertainment at breakneck speed.
"War Stories" by James A. Moore is a story that's as much about the horrible things that happen during wars as it is about storytelling and the way it can help us share, survive, and heal. Eddie has returned from Vietnam and is trying to come to terms with the things he saw and did over there. As a way of letting him know he's not alone, his grandfather tells him about the things he witnessed during WWII, and the story he tells is scary, hard to believe, and wonderfully atmospheric. Despite the Nazi projects and flying bullets, the best thing about this narrative is that it contains stories within stories but handles them all in a very clear way.
Jonathan Maberry's "Changeling", which closes the collection, is a tale about what goes on behind the curtains of a company that the government had to shut down because they were trying to change soldiers forever with genetic manipulation. The horror here is more implied and the narrative lacks the nonstop action of the previous three, but Maberry brings to the table a combination of science, intrigue, humor, and an all-around noir-esque atmosphere that makes this an outstanding closing.
The four stories in SNAFU: Heroes: An Anthology of Military Horror are as diverse as the authors who wrote them, and they offer a great taste of what military horror can achieve when it comes from very capable hands and writers who care more about storytelling than about obeying the unspoken rules of a subgenre.