First, I should say, I have had the very great pleasure of meeting and talking with a few of the authors in this anthology in real live person. Some of them are very dear friends. I have also been reading the Joe Ledger series since the first book came out (and there’s a story behind how I got introduced to the series that will be its own post later on) and the idea of an anthology in the canon with the characters I love so much made me ecstatic.
Now, if you have no idea who Joe Ledger is and you like weird thrillers with extremely plausible science (the type of ￼”no wait, that’s a real thing that is plausible and could happen…oh crap”) then hie thee to a library or to your favorite bookseller. They start off with a bang and just get better and better from there. I’ve heard them described as “comic books in novel form” and there’s some truth to that. Jonathan Maberry is amazing at what he does and how he structures his books and it’s the best kind of thing to pick up one of these books and go for a ride down a fantastic, all too plausible rabbit hole. He’s written an introduction to Joe and his world in the beginning of the anthology in case you want to pick up the anthology first for a taste of what the Ledger books are all about.
The anthology itself spans over the entire timeline of the canon novels and even includes a couple of crossovers with other book series, a thing that has added a few new books to the list of to be acquired. These stories made me laugh, cheer, and in a couple places, cry (Three Times, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks). All of the short stories in this anthology are amazing, but I wanted to focus on two of the stories that stayed with me the most. The first being Mira Grant’s Red Dirt, which is a short that takes place after the events of the second book in the series, The Dragon Factory, and if you know Mira’s writing…it’s flawless in how the prose grabs you and sucks you into the story she’s weaving. You don’t read this short, you experience it. Her sense of place is magnificent. You can feel the despair and the heartache and the way that red dirt sticks to everything it touches. It’s gloriously executed and a perfect coda to the second book. It also made me sniffle for the remembering of certain events.
The second is actually my favorite out of all of them and it’s written by Keith DeCandido. Ganbatte, features a member of Joe’s team, Lydia Ruiz who is one of the first members of an all-female SEAL fire team. She is easily one of the most badass characters in the series and this story gives us a snippet into how she got to be a member of Echo Team. Lydia is a hell of a martial artist and Keith’s own expertise in that field shows in this story. It also touches on a sensitive topic around one of the people in Lydia’s life and while the situation is an all too real one, the outcome was one that I appreciated the hell out of as much as I simultaneously wished that situations like that would really end that way in actual life. Just like with Mira’s story, you don’t read this one so much as you experience it. You feel the wind in your hair, that smell you only get when driving on the overseas highway. It’s easy to get into Lydia’s head, to see what she sees. Ganbatte deepens your understanding of Lydia Ruiz as a character and a person.
So all in all, this anthology was exactly I wanted and hoped for. Some of my favorite authors writing in one of my favorite series. Definitely a book worth picking up if you haven’t already. Get it here from your favorite indie bookstore!