Knee-Deep in Grit: Two Bloody Years of Grimdark Fiction by Adrian Collins

Series: anthology Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: June 2018 Genre: grimdark, fantasy, sci-fi
Format: Kindle Available: NA
Number of pages: NA Author’s website: http://www.grimdarkmagazine.com/

“Belief defines reality, and the beliefs of the deranged can be truly dangerous.”

– At the Walls of Sinnlos by Michael R. Fletcher

Blurb

 Get knee-deep in grit with twenty-five grimdark sci-fi and fantasy short stories from the shadowy vaults of Grimdark Magazine. The top names in dark speculative fiction and the genre’s brightest newcomers bring you stories of war, betrayal, violence, and greed, as anti-heroes and adversaries fight to the bittersweet end.

For the first time, the first two years of fiction from Grimdark Magazine are printed on dead trees and bound together like captive slaves to be read or reread and proudly placed among your favourite tomes on your bookshelf.

Personal notes

I’ve received and ARC from Adrian Collins in exchange of a honest review.

You might have noticed that there are some missing information above. I’ll update this post as soon as the final edition will be made and will be ready to go up for purchase 🙂 I can’t wait for you all to get your hands on this one! I don’t advise to read it in one sitting though. I went through it in a few days and I still try to recover from it… but I’ll try to write up a review anyway, altough I find it harder to review an anthology than a full length novel. What life would be without some challenges, though? For those who are interested in my random thoughts and ramblings about every one of the stories, can read it here! All of them is free of spoilers of course.

Review

Adrian Collins and the crew at Grimdark Magazine has decided to put together an anthology featuring 25 authors whose work was published on their pages. And what a good idea it was! When I accepted the ARC I had only known two authors of those featured in this book: Mark Lawrence, whose Broken Empire trilogy I’ve read and Michael R. Fletcher so I dived into the unknown without any idea how it will turn out. The stories are as varied as the authors. We get sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy. And of course all of them is grim in their own way: some of them is filled to the brim with bodies, the blood flowing like a red cold river, some of them are more refined and not as much blood filled but featuring characters with questionable moral. The palette is wide, so everyone will find their favorite. For me those stood out the most which affected me emotionally, where the characters had to make a though choice, which made me think about humanity and how much our choices define us or change our lives. The ones which puts a mirror before you and makes you question yourself: would I’ve done the same thing?

The stories that stood out to me the most were:

The Neutral by Anatoly Belilovsky and Mike Gelprin

Damn. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. This one is short (way too short) and a different kind of brutal. It’s not overwritten, we don’t get much of the MC’s personality, he is not important only the choice he makes in the end. And that leaves its mark. This was the first that really touched me emotionally and probably will many more too. The story builds up until that one last moment, when the final decision is made, when everything comes to an end one way or the other.

Shadow Hunter by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Maybe this was the most original one. The world in this story is filled insect-kinded people, with different attributes and gifts granted by the insects they represent. The writing is really good, the character building is detailed despite the length. Apparently the story is set in the world of Mr Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

A Recipe for Corpse Oil by Siobhan Gallagher

The only remotely funny read out of the 25, maybe that’s made it standing out so much. Well, it’s funny, if you’ve got a certain kind of morbid humor that is. This one didn’t take itself too seriously and puts a twist to assassin stories. The MC is a thief who is caught by a shop owner who asks for his services in exchange of not giving him up. And so our MC is set loose in the city trying to fulfill his side of the bargain.

A Fair Man by Peter Orullian

Another emotionally effective short story about a man who spent his life serving the prince as best as he could, but starts to see the unfairness of the law and the people who enforce it. It had an ancient roman feel to the setting. It also raises questions like how long can you stand by without doing anything to prevent innocent people to die? How far would you go to save your loved one? And how do you pay back someone who saved your life?

Lessons of Necessity by T.C. Powell

When a story starts with a 12 years old handing a knife to his mom with a moving zombie at his feet, you know it’s not going to be an easy read. And it’s not. This one will make many repelled. It’s hard to decide where to put this. Not classic grimdark, it’s more about morale and again, choices. Be it bad and right. As a short story it’s well written, tight, heart wrenching. And will leave you conflicted and wondering: would I have done the same thing?

Bad Seed by Mark Lawrence

I’m sure I don’t have to introduce Mr Lawrence to those who like the grimdark genre. The book starts and ends with him as he wrote the introduction. This short story was published in the first issue of Grimdark Magazine. This was also one of the best, but that’s expected from Mark Lawrence. If you are familiar with the Broken Empire trilogy, then Brother Kent’s name will ring a bell. Now you can learn about his past, and how did he become the man he was. Was he a good man or a bad one just because he was born to kill?

Others I’d like give a shout out too, because they were good as well, but this review would go on forever if I started to gush about them too:

  • Ashes by Tara Calaby
  • The Woman I Used to Be by Gerri Leen
  • The Red Wraith by Nicholas Wisseman
  • Boomer Hunter by Sean Patrick Hazlett
  • Redemption Waits by Mike Brooks
  • All the Lovely Brides by Kelly Sandoval
  • Drone Strikes for Fun and Profit by Aaron Fox-Lerner
  • Brazen Dreams by Matthew Ward
  • The Right Hand of Decay by David Annandale
  • The Line by T. R. Napper
  • The King Beneath the Waves by Peter Fugazzotto
  • At the Walls of Sinnlos by Michael R. Fletcher

Whatever you are looking for in grimdark, you sure will find it in this anthology. You’ll go on a roller coaster ride, you’ll question your life, your morales, you’ll dive deep into blood and gore. You’ll watch characters fight and die for love, for glory, for revenge, for whatever they find worth to fight for. Sometimes you’ll cheer for them, sometimes against them. You’ll find new authors to follow and most probably will walk away like a different man (or women) with a million questions swarming in your head. At the end of the day, this is what makes a book remarkable: if it makes you think, and if that you carry it around in your head and soul even long after you put it down. Knee-Deep in Grit will make that to you: gets under your skin, plants itself in your head and no matter how much you try, you’ll never be able to look at people the same way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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