Many scientists subscribe to a theory that 300 million years ago, there was only one super-continent as opposed to the seven that now exist. That super-continent was called Pangaea by the scientist that put forth this theory in his treatise called The Origin of the Continents by Alfred Wegener, published in 1912. Wegener further claimed that the continents began to break up and drift about 175 million years ago and slowly came to their present positions.
Much more recently, author Michael Jan Friedman began speculating on what the world might be like if continental drift stopped with the formation of the super-continent Pangaea all those millennia ago and stayed in that form into present day. Earlier this year, Mike announced a Kickstarter project that, if funded, promised to be an impressive project that would involve not only himself, but numerous other authors with impressive credentials coming together to produce a short story anthology the likes of which would be unique.
Well, the project was funded beyond what was needed to start work on the book and it is now available to the general public in all the usual formats from all of the usual sources.
Mike brought fourteen authors together to write thirteen great short stories that will sometimes make you laugh, sometimes feel saddened, and always make you think about how this alternate world that was created seems far too much like our own, but at the same time it is very different. The list of contributors to this volume, along with Friedman himself, include: Michael Burstein, Adam-Troy Castro, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore. All are accomplished writers and highly respected in their chosen genres. It you want to learn more about this distinguished bullpen of word-slingers, follow the link to the Kickstarter page where there are brief bios on each one.
Pangaea is a collection of thirteen stories that begin with Michael Jan Friedman's story of an energy producing facility that is sabotaged just as it is about to come online. There is an interesting twist at the end of this one, as well as the last story in the book, written by Peter David who follows on from where Mike leaves off and adds yet another twist and a wide open ending that absolutely howls for a sequel. In between Friedeman's and David's brackets are eleven more stories that range from cop stories to tales of revenge; land grabbing schemes to the freeing of slaves; sibling rivalries and love gone wrong.
I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite story among the choices offered. Each one is an imaginative self contained tale that are in all different styles and voice. All are easily read with some terminology that is easily understood in context. The longest story is about an hour of reading time with the shortest coming in at about 20 minutes, most can be read in the span of an average lunch break of a half an hour. I found myself reading two or three stories at a time not wanting to put the book down because each was like unwrapping a gift that was not like any of the others.
The world of Pangaea takes place in many different settings including heavily populated city-states near the inland ocean to vast open plains and mountains. A great variety of settings are offered that well describes the world created in this volume. There is also a variety of people, but two of the main groups are the humans and a race called Brows, which seemed to me to be evolved Neanderthal-like people that have wide noses and heavy brow ridges as well as possessing superhuman strength. The Brows are often oppressed, but are also valued for abilities their human counterparts lack. The people of Pangaea are much the same as those that exist in our world, but unlike our reality, everyone has to exist and cohabitate on a single landmass which often causes tensions, but also promotes cooperation among peoples. Much of what happens in Pangaea will be familiar to readers while much will also be very thought provoking. As I see it, we may not live on a super-continent, but in our modern world with the technology we possess, the planet would appear to be shrinking. As it is in today's society, it is in Pangaea; there is much prejudice, paranoia, and many other very recognizable characteristics that are prevalent. By reading the stories of this imagined world, there will be much to think about as one proceeds through the stories. But the biggest value in Pangaea, along with the variety of stories, is the entertainment value. Many of the tropes contained therein are not all that new, but their treatment in the book is unique owing to the environment in which they are set.
At any rate, I give Pangaea my highest recommendations as great reading material with an interesting variety of stories every bit as tasty as a box of good chocolates.
Well, there it is...