Strange New Words
trade paper $8.99
Ari Marmell is best known for his novels and his gaming work, but as this collection shows, he’s also quite proficient at shorter lengths. He’s also quite versatile, as the type of story included in Strange New Words, Marmell’s first collection, demonstrates.
We lead off with “The Cemetery Wyrm”, the tale of a young boy who discovers an old tomb at the back of the local cemetery with a beautifully carved dragon atop it. This begins a lifelong obsession to know who is buried there, but some questions are best left alone.
Very much in the vein of Glen Cook’s Garrett, PI, is “The Puroined Ledger”. This one is about a detective in a magical version of 1930s Chicago. The detective, Mick Oberon, is the main character in the forthcoming novel, Hot Lead, Cold Iron. I’m looking forward to it. Marmell nails the period, and this was one of the highlights of the book for me.
“The Shaman’s Tale” is set in the world of Marmell’s novel The Goblin Corps. There was a nice twist at the end of this one. In “Railroad Spikes” a train robber falls into an insidious trap. A band of adventurer find more than the bargain for when they attempt to steal “The Rubiesof Olun-Zeth”.
A sadistic zoo keeper finds the tables turned in “Big Apple, Small Serpent”. “Reaver”, one of my favorites, tells the story of what happens when a supposedly cursed vessel drifts into a small river town. “Twenty-One-Oh” shows the future of the delivery business becoming much more cutthroat. A dark and disturbing tale of the origin of the Wild Hunt, “Tithe” was another favorite.
“Than to Serve in Heaven” lets us know how Lucifer would run things if he were in charge. “The Ogre’s Pride” visits one of the characters from the Covis Rebaine series. Marmell visits Lovecraft territory with “In Deepest Silence”, in which a submarine crew answer a distress call and discover more trouble than they bargained for.
The final story is “One Solitary Scale”. In this one, we learn a little more about the tombstone from “The Cemetery Wyrm”. Not all questions are answered, though. There’s still plenty of things left unexplained. And quite frankly, I Wanna Know More.
For a first collection, the contents here are pretty impressive. Marmell shows a wide range of subject matter, voice, and tone. His prose flows smoothly, balanced between overly flowery and sparse.
The production values are professional. The cover art fits the tone of some of the stories and seems to apply best to “Reaver”. The interactive ToC took me right where it said it would.
Strange New Words was funded through Kickstarter. I missed the announcement, or I would have both supported it and announced it here. This is one you should check out.