For my second 4-Point Review on this blog, I’ll be commenting on Five Days in May, by Ron Collins and John C. Bodin. It’s a new edition of a collection that was published last year as Four Days in May, with the inclusion of an additional short story. Here’s the synopsis from Smashwords:
“Strap yourself into the cockpit and follow along as John C. Bodin and Ron Collins take you on five science fictional hot laps around the Indy 500’s past and future, full of aliens, robots, high technology, and even a few laughs.”
1. A Truly Unique Collection: Some of the best spec fic writers find their particular niche or interest and use that to build stories that no one else can. What Collins and Bodin have done here is focus on the Indy 5oo, and I haven’t been able to find another collection that adapts America’s great racing event into spec fic. Even more incredible is the fact that the authors have written five stories that are all set in the same place – the Indy speedway – and yet each story looks at racing in a way that is remarkably fresh and intriguing.
2. Great Characters: One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about Collins is his character work, and he and Bodin certainly don’t disappoint in these stories. Similar to my point above, there’s a great diversity in the characters presented in Five Days. For example, the dialogue between Buddy and Babs, a driver and his AI-controlled car in “The Day the Track Stood Still,” is both hilarious and touching as they figure out their relationship. In “Speeding,” Connor Singh is the classic filmographer willing to do anything for the perfect shot – and his drive, like any flawed character, proves to be deadly. The best character by far, though, is Chandra Kumari from “Ghost of a Chance,” because she’s the least and most human of them simultaneously, and in the best ways possible.
3. Well Worth the Re-Release: Five Days is really a re-release, since four of the stories were published in last year’s edition. For anyone who bought Four Days in May, it’s a situation similar to remastered Led Zeppelin albums that are coming out: if you already own the album, why are you going to buy it again? Luckily, Collins has offered a free “upgrade” to anyone who already owns the previous edition, via his newsletter. And even if that wasn’t the case, the all-new story, “Ghost of a Chance,” is worth the cost of the book on its own. It’s a riveting story with some of the best character work that I’ve seen from Collins since I started reading his stuff.
4. The Weakest Link to Start?: One of the toughest parts of writing is hooking the reader as quickly as possible. For a collection, your first story has to be especially strong, so the reader is encouraged to read the next one and buy the book. With the caveat that this is all subjective, I think the first story in Five Days, “Neighbors on Gasoline Alley,” is the weakest of the five – the resolution seems a bit forced, and far beyond the capabilities of an Indy mechanic (which is not meant as a slight against Indy mechanics). That said, if you scope out this first story and feel the same way, my advice is to keep reading. The stories only get better as you go forward.
Final Thought: Five Days in May is part of the growing body of self-published spec fic that is truly a pleasure to read. Between the unique concepts, the excellent characterization and the sheer fun of Collins and Bodin’s style, this newest edition is definitely worth picking up.
You can check out Five Days in May for yourself here.
For more about Ron Collins: http://typosphere.com/