Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, And Magic Review

Edited by Manny Frishberg

Contributors: Leah Cutter, G. David Nordley, Blaze Ward, Irene Radford, Frog & Esther Jones, Bob Brown, Voss Foster, SB Sebrick, Sanan Kolva, Manny Frishberg, and Bruce Taylor

Reviewed by Adam Armstrong

Almost is a double-edged sword. There are times where almost can be just as good as what you were after. For instance, if you wanted to become a millionaire and were a few dollars short, you would most likely still be pretty happy. However, with the 2016 Olympics currently going on, if you trained your whole life and took fourth place in a sport, almost wouldn’t cut it. The best beats good enough every time. Still, life is a series of compromises. And while we don’t always get what we want, we are more than happy to settle for close enough in most cases. 

Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, And Magic is a small collection of eleven stories that deal with being close enough, and most of the stories have at least one of the items listed in the title. The stories range from dogs that make sure important magic babies are born. Bigfoot revealing himself only to tell the world that it is in imminent danger and only he can save us, maybe. An elf that was cursed with a werespider body finds magic that will change him into…something better. Two students travel through time to prove one another wrong about a theory. A thief unwittingly saves a king from an assassin to become a hero. A space fighter leads his fleet into what he believes may be victory. And a bad wizard uses the wrong spell to turn his friend into the desire of all the females in town; the only problem is the females are not human.

This was a strange collection in general. It was theme-based and therefore mixed up several genres, jumping from one to the next. While this was a bit jarring it was also refreshing. Sometimes one wants to have a little taste of everything on the menu and that isn’t always possible with any given collection or magazine. 

While some stories were definitely stronger and resonated more than others, none of the eleven stunk out loud (though a couple of stories I had to reread before starting the review; not poorly written, just not terribly memorable). I found “What Dreams May Go” to be the best overall, though it was the least speculative and arguably the most literary story in the bunch. One story that stuck in my head was “Feet Of Clay.” While reading it I didn’t think I was going to like it but found that the imagery within isn’t something easily forgotten. 

There were a few funny stories contained herein as well. “The Off Switch” is an abnormal bigfoot/first contact story with a few good laughs as well as something to think about. And “One-Horse Wonder” was chock full of laughs in a misadventure of two anti-heroes that are trying to get something to eat and some money and aren’t really interested in saving the day. The story also uses magic to turn the Harem fantasy of men on its head. 

The collection is worth a read. While there are no super well-known authors here there is a chance to get to know some new ones. A few stories within this collection deserve a few rereads as they are well written and much fun. Others are more nuanced and allow the reader to catch new insights the second time through. And while tongue wasn’t firmly in cheek in this collection, there are a few authors that took that fantasy genre (a genre I feel takes itself too seriously at times) and had a lot of fun with it. 

So pick it up and read it from cover to cover. Or just read the good stories, almost is good enough in most cases.