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REVIEW: The Mars Vintage and Other Stories – A.H. Lykke

The Mars Vintage and Other Stories - A.H. Lykke

Genre: Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

An intriguing collection of short stories, from Space Opera to harder sf

Life can be hard when your papers suddenly aren’t valid anymore and you are forced to leave your home for another planet.

How do you cope? 

Friendly aliens come in all shapes, as do the ones you don’t want in your mind.

You will find some futuristic social science and a speculative one thrown in for good measure. The characters are younger and some are older, some are strange and some perhaps, are more familiar. This collection of short stories reveals capable humans, intriguing aliens, and new areas of trade.

From the introduction:
”There is a poetry of lyricism here, an elegance wedded to economy of expression. Like a painter’s vanishing-point, strange worlds stretch out their alien tendrils between lines, as real as any remorseless implication can make them. Such worlds to behold!” –P. Stuart Robinson, 2020

The Review

I picked this collection of short stories up for review because I am a sucker for “Mars” stories. Turns out even the title story is not actually about Mars, but about a spaceship pilot and her struggles against the backdrop of a solar-system-wide trade war.

I had a few quibbles about some of the sci-fi background to these stories – a small moon has a breathable atmosphere, for instance, which seems unlikely due to the low gravity – but they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the stories. My favorites were the ones that shared a truly alien viewpoint, especially the first story, “Trade.” We’re dropped inside the head of a creature totally unlike human beings, but with some of the same basic impulses – to protect family, to explore, to find new worlds – and it’s fascinating to see how she perceives humanity from the outside.

The title story, “The Mars Vintage,” also had a really cool detail – how wine might be transported from Earth to the colonies, and how it might taste different when enjoyed in different atmospheres, including stuffy space stations. It had echoes of The Expanse, and I could see this story fitting in neatly with that series.

“All I Need is a Spacesuit” brought up more questions than it answered, but was still an enjoyable ride. “The Ultimate Thrill” also tread somewhat familiar ground, similar to Westworld, and was the weakest story in the collection for me.

The story that really grabbed me by the throat and kept me in suspense for a long time was “Thirst,” one of those “I just woke up in a dark place” tales that lazily spins out its story, feeding you bit by bit so you find yourself racing along faster to get to the end and find out what really happened.

The last story in this collection, “The Orphan and the Troll,” offered another look at a truly alien race, as the heroine tries to piece together what happened to her crewmates, and what the aliens now holding her want. I loved the way she tries to figure the alien race out — trolls as she calls them —as the story progresses, and the not-knowing if they are good or evil.

These stories are all told in a very narrow point of view — what the character sees and how she sees it, with a lot if internal monologue. As a lover of epic sci fi, I usually want more – give me the wide picture, the space battles, the multiple points of view. But as I read Lykke’s stories, I found myself drawn in to each character and their individual circumstances, and the “wanting more” part became an essential part of the story.

I truly enjoyed this collection, as well as the fact that the protagonists in every story were strong women, none of whom needed saving in the end. if you enjoy mystery in your sci-fi, and tightly-wound tales well-told, give this one a try.

I do hope the author takes on a novella or novel-length work next – I’d love to see what she does with it.

And please, oh please, set it on Mars!

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Liminal Fiction, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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