Golem Press' Alembical is something unique in the spec fic landscape -- a print anthology which features only novellas. It is notoriously difficult to sell novellas -- work from 20,000 to 40,000 words -- in a world that wants to publish short stories or novels.
The second issue, Alembical 2, has just come out. I already have connections to two of the three featured authors. J. Kathleen Cheney j_cheney was one of merry band of Writers of the Future XXIV winners. Toni Pi wistling was a winner the year before in WOTF XXIII. So ordering Alembical 2 was a no-brainer. (Also took the chance to pick up a copy of Alembical 1 for free shipping, which includes a story by Jay Lake jaylake.) Then it turns out that the third author, David D. Levine davidlevine, is also a winner from WOTF XVIII in 2002.
Kids, are you keeping score? If you're a new writer and you're not submitting to WOTF and are still eligible, why not? (grin)
Naturally I read the stories out of order, in preference to who I knew. So first up was the third story, J. Kathleen Cheney's "Iron Shoes". Early 1900s... Sarasota Springs... horse racing... and shapeshifters. Imogen Hawkes wants, no needs for one of her horses to win the prize at the Stakes, but which one? Whirlwind, Blue Streak, Faithful? Things are pretty complicated, but in a novella length there's plenty of time to let this flow and develop and weave its threads into a whole complete story. Excellent period field, magic handled exceedingly well and very entertaining. I liked this story a lot. Recommended.
Next the first story, Tony Pi's "The Paragon Lure" is part... what? Mission Impossible, Highlander, It Takes A Thief and The Italian Job (new one)... and Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth -- back when Shakespeare was still working and Elizabeth didn't need a number. Oh yeah, deliciously high tech and historically complicated at the same time. Felix Lea is great fun and though we don't know everything that is going on, he does and we want him to win. And what if Hamlet was the only play that survives? Recommended.
Finally the story in middle, David D. Levine's "Second Chance" throws you out of the past or the present and all the way to Tau Ceti. This is the sort of science literate SF that shows how very fragile we are and the high risk of space travel. Also risky as it brings up race and religion and prejudice. And a thorny electrical engineering/communications problem. Chaz Eades is having a very difficult time and it isn't his fault, but for none of the usual reasons why. Probably one of the better "more probable" interstellar travel SF stories I've run across in quite a while. Highly Recommended.
There you have it. Three excellent stories. Very different, yet they work together. Well worth your time and money to pick up Alembical 2.
Overall: Highly Recommended