“Quakes and Storms: A Natural Disaster Anthology” is a horror-themed anthology published by Lake Fossil Press via Lulu and edited by Nickolaus Pacione. The anthology contains 20 stories, a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
The photograph on the cover is drab and uninspiring. The back cover copy contains ungrammatical lines like, "Do not photocopy...the contents of this publication unless given kind permission is given by the authors or editors involed with the project" and, "Proceeds of this anthology goes...".
Inside, the introduction, written by Mr. Pacione, is the typical rambling, incoherent, and ungrammatical mess that I’ve come to expect from Pacione. The Table of Contents sometimes lists the incorrect start page for a story, and authors’ names are sometimes spelled differently in the TOC than at the top of the story. Altogether, these flaws do not make for a favorable first impression.
The stories range in quality, but I thought four stood out as better than the rest – “As Lost as a Northwest Alabamian in a Snowstorm” (non-fiction/essay), "Half the Storm", "Just Passing Through" and "Peas in a Pod".
In “Half the Storm”, by Erin MacKay, two girls explore the bounds of their friendship before, during, and after a hurricane – with tragic consequences. I thought that the author did a good job capturing the fickleness of kids’ friendships. The only major flaw in this story – and it was almost enough for me to not include it in the top three – is that the girls were described as being nine years old – which was about three years too young for the thoughts and actions ascribed to them.
In Karen L. Abrahamson’s “Peas in a Pod”, a father and son battle a drought that has all but destroyed their farm, while the son tries to reconnect with his father. “Just Passing Through”, by John M. Floyd, had a nice twist at the end and clean writing. “As Lost as a Northwest Alabamian in a Snowstorm” was a bit over-written, but I liked Macey Wuesthoff’s sense of humor, and that kept me reading all the way to the end.
By far the worst stories are "Utica, Illinois" and “Flood Memoir”, both written by Nickolaus Pacione. Like the introduction, these are rambling, incoherent, and ungrammatical. They lack any semblance of a plot, mention "horrors" without actually describing them and make references to what movie the situation is like, which is the copout of a poor writer.
“Any Port in a Storm", by Melyssa G. Sprott, was also very poorly written. The story takes place on a cruise ship at a never-specified time in a never-specified place. It’s a story without any background, context, or characterization.
Other stories had major problems and could have used some editing. Several stories fell victim to bad science. For example, in "Element of Surprise", by Pasquale J. Morrone, an asteroid strikes the Eastern Seaboard with almost no warning. Marisa Low’s "The Way Things Were" has both the unexpected eruption of an active volcano AND an unexpected tidal wave hitting -- again -- the Eastern Seaboard. While these events make for good drama, an asteroid can't sneak up on the Earth with our modern capability to monitor the space around us. Likewise, we have systems in place to watch for tsunamis, and active volcanoes tend to have geologists running all over them.
The bad science that occurs in "The Avalanche of St. Aspin", by Anna Reinholz, is of a different kind. The author clearly has some knowledge of what makes snow conditions ripe for an avalanche, but she seems to have a limited knowledge of airplanes. The story also mentions a victim who had third-degree burns over 95% of her body, but who was given a "good chance of survival". Third-degree burns of that extent would be fatal, probably within hours. A competent editor would have caught and corrected these basic errors.
Many of the stories, however, fell into that middle ground where the writing is neither good nor horrible, but where there are crucial plot problems or the writing just doesn’t grab one’s attention. “Feline Intuition”, by Brian Dixon, is a good example of that. During a series of earthquakes, a reporter goes to talk to a man who tells him that because all of the cats have left the city, “the big one is coming.” OK, but if the man knows the big one is coming, Why is he still sitting in his apartment right in the middle of the action? Why isn’t he five hundred miles down the road to safety?
In “Earthquake Forces”, by Barbara Anna Marjanovic, a massive earthquake hits Vancouver and within 30 minutes, the main character can turn on the TV and learn that Vancouver Island is breaking to bits, that the estimated number of dead was 30,000 and climbing, etc. In thirty minutes. This is just not realistic.
The supposed non-fiction essays confused me the most. The introduction states that there are three non-fiction pieces. However, only Ms. Wuesthoff’s story is labeled – in the sub-title – as non-fiction. The reader is left to guess about the others. I believe that “Flood Memoir” by Mr. Pacione is non-fiction because he has stated elsewhere on the Internet that it was a true story. It also appears that “Surviving the Palm Sunday Tornado”, by Shana K. Dines (or perhaps Shauna K. Dines, as it’s spelled both ways in the anthology) and “Fire”, by Esther Spurrill, are true . Either I am mistaken about the non-fiction entries, or Mr. Pacione either can’t count or made an error in the introduction.
In summary, I cannot recommend this anthology. Most of these authors may have potential, but they need time and practice for their writing to mature to the level where the average reader will feel satisfied paying to read their work. The few good stories don’t make up for the weaker ones, and the shoddy writing and editing of the editor bring down the whole project.