A friend asked me to review K.J. Klimasz’s Murders, Bikers And A Meteor anthology as part of a blog tour. Knowing nothing else about the collection other than it had science fiction stories in it, I agreed to read it. Chances are if I had come across this collection on my own, I would not have finished it.
I’ve been told that the version I read is an unedited advance copy. I certainly hope the version for sale on Klimasz’s website has had some revisions done, because I’d be upset if I paid for an anthology presented in this state.
Murders, Bikers And A Meteor is a short story collection with “four dark tales ranging in genre from crime drama to science fiction and horror.” The description is more or less accurate. I wouldn’t describe the tales as dark, but the genres fit. The problem is none of the stories feel like they belong together. The collection jumps from a story about a stoner running into a truck driver that may or may not be human to one about a young man who witnesses his friend murder a prostitute. The shift from sci-fi to straight-laced crime drama is jarring. The other two stories are similar: one sci-fi and the other crime drama.
Still, high quality, entertaining stories would be enough to make readers overlook the wild variations in genre and tone. Sadly, that doesn’t happen with Murders, Bikers And A Meteor. All four of the stories in this collection suffer from poor writing and a lack of editing. I gave up highlighting all of places where there were POV jumps, giant info dumps, tense changes, and grammatical errors. But these problems aren’t all mechanical! Even though this is an unedited advance copy, these problems aren’t going to go away with some proofreading.
For example, the story “Phone Call” starts off in the present tense, but then in chapter 2 it switches to the past tense…but then there are still sentences written in the present tense scattered throughout. The entire story is full of moments where the reader is told things about the characters instead of being shown them. It happens every time a character is introduced, like when Axl’s friend Kurt appears in chapter 3:
“Kurt came barreling through the door with the early morning sun chasing after him. Kurt had been a standout athlete in high school. After graduation, he joined the Army and won awards for physical fitness. His addictive personality pushed him to a life of excess, whether it was working out, smoking cigarettes, drinking Bacardi rum, or smoking crack and screwing hookers. He could never get enough.”
That reads more like an author’s notes about a character than compelling fiction. Rather than show Kurt’s large frame and tie that into the fact that he’d kept his physique even after leaving the army, the author just tells us all these things in a big paragraph.
The story is also full of POV shifts that only get worse when the two detectives are introduced. The chase scene near the end of the story is particularly hard to follow because it keeps switching between Axl and the two detectives.
Finally, the trend of just infodumping all over the place continues at the very end of the story. Klimasz doesn’t give the reader a proper conclusion. A couple of paragraphs like this are all the reader gets:
“Kurt and Axl never saw or spoke to one another again. Kurt was arrested about three weeks later in his home town of West Des Moines. Someone tipped off the police of his whereabouts and he surrendered without a struggle. He was brought back to Minnesota where he pleaded guilty in a plea bargain for a lesser sentence. After Kurt was released from prison, he moved out west for a new start in life.”
So the POV shifts to an omniscient narrator and tells us what happened to the characters. Like I said before, it’s not compelling and represents a lack of editing and polish.
Sadly, the rest of the stories work in similar ways. The ideas behind the stories in Murders, Bikers And A Meteor aren’t bad, but they need a lot more work before they’d be in a state I’d consider paying money for.