Weldon Burge, Editor
Smart Rhino Publications
Assassin stories usually don’t interest me. For the longest time, I associated stories centered around assassins with flashy action movies – you know, the type of action movies with sexy characters, one-dimensional villains, action-packed music, and little to no plot. I’m certain the association is a misinformed, close-minded one, but it’s the type of association that sadly kept me far away from many books or movies centered around assassins.
Regardless, when I learned that Weldon Burge was putting together another short story collection, this one called Uncommon Assassins, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, the first short story collection edited by Weldon Burge, was amazing. I absolutely loved reading and reviewing it. Back when I used to give out the Reader’s Den Choice Award, I knew without a doubt that Zippered Flesh would get the award.
Weldon Burge is great at many things, and putting together interesting short story collections is one of them. Fortunately, that’s as true with Uncommon Assassins as it is with Zippered Flesh.
Just like with Zippered Flesh, Uncommon Assassins is full of short stories with terrifying or interesting twists. I read and edit so much that I can predict what will happen in most stories. Because of that, I’m often desperate for uncommon books. I love being surprised. I love being totally uncertain about what’s going to happen next or assuming I know exactly what will happen next and being proven wrong.
While one or two of the stories in Uncommon Assassins didn’t surprise me or come across as particularly uncommon – For instance, as well-written and interesting as the first short story was, it didn’t seem all too uncommon to me – most of them did.
My absolute favorite story is a tie between Everybody Wins by Lisa Mannetti and Fire & Ice by Joseph Badal. Both stories have incredibly terrifying plots. In Everybody Wins, the antagonist takes advantage of suicidal people through a suicide hotline and basically forces them to kill themselves and someone else. In Fire & Ice, the antagonists takes advantage of young girls by getting them addicted to drugs and forcing them into a sex business. In both stories, the writers do a great job showing just how heartbreaking and horrifying being in those positions would be.
With Fire & Ice, I loved knowing that the antagonists had finally messed with the wrong young girl and that karma was about to get them really bad once the girl’s brother, an assassin, got involved. As for Everybody Wins, I found the whole concept as interesting as it was terrifying.
Other favorites were Fat Larry’s Night with the Alligators by Ken Goldman, Misconceptions by Matt Hilton, Bloodshed Fred by Monica J. O’Rourke, and Slasher by Paul F. Wilson.
Of course, there were some stories I didn’t like so much either. My least favorite was The Pepper Tyrant by J. Gregory Smith. The concept of having a pepper eating contest as a serious challenge with serious consequences is interesting, and I liked the twist at the end. However, the story seemed awkwardly written, definitely compared to the stories after and before it. I also had mixed feelings about Killer by Ken Bruen. I loved it’s poetic style, word usage, and formatting, but the plot confused me about halfway through.
Overall, I have to say that Weldon Burge did a great job with this collection, just as I expected, and that I can’t wait to get my hands on the next collection he puts together.