Lost Worlds & Mythological Kingdoms
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
"From the legends of Atlantis, El Dorado, and Shangri-La to classic novels such as King Solomon’s Mine, The Land That Time Forgot, and The Lost World, readers have long been fascinated by the idea of lost worlds and mythical kingdoms.
Read short stories featuring the discovery of such worlds or kingdoms―stories where scientists explore unknown places, stories where the discovery of such turns the world on its head, stories where we’re struck with the sense of wonder at realizing that we don’t know our world quite as well as we’d thought."
Lost Worlds & Mythological Kingdoms is a fiction anthology edited by John Joseph Adams.
First and foremost I would like to thank NetGalley and Grim Oak Press for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
When it comes to anthologies, I always say that you never know what you are going to get. Most end up being overall middle of the line, and that is the case with this collection as well. Aside from a couple of outliers, the vast majority of the stories in this were very mediocre.
Like my other reviews of anthologies, I will give my overall impression of the book as a whole, and then talk about each story under a spoiler warning. Should you not wish to know anything about the stories, feel free to stop reading when you see the bolded heading.
Now, as I have already stated, this was a disappointing set of stories as most of them were mediocre. My biggest fault with this collection, however, is that I felt that the a lot of the contributing authors didn't understand the assignment. To me, a lot of the stories saw the theme, and then looked the other way.
It could just be me, but when I think of lost worlds and mythological kingdoms, I think of something along the lines of the Uncharted games. What I got instead were a lot of sci-fi stories, which I think is cheating a bit considering the nature of sci-fi, and simply just not enough discovery of places that were neither lost not mythological.
My favourite story of the collection was Comfort Lodge, Enigma Valley by Charles Yu because it was unique and well-written. Some other stories that were okay were:
The Light Lost at Sea by An Owomoyela
The Orpheus Gate by Jonathon Maberry
On the Cold Hill Side by Seanan McGuire
WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD - PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
LOST LIGHT AT SEA BY AN OWOMOYELA ⭐⭐⭐1/2
This is a sapphic story which does get some brownie points from me, but I found that the romance overtook the story a bit. This does, kind of, check the box off for the discovery aspect as this follows a group of characters on an expedition to a strange underwater sight. Now I say kind of because it turns out what they thought was an underwater civilization was just remnants of old magic.
It was still an interesting concept, but not quite what I wanted, and the ending ended up ruining the flow of the story as well as it just tapered off and was satisfactory.
THE CLEFT OF BONES BY KATE ELLIOT ⭐⭐⭐+
This takes place in a city that is divided by class through the use of levels, and we follow a cast of characters who live at the bottom as dolos (slaves). They are the temple dolos, and they have the highest ranking among the rest of the dolos. I thought it was interesting the way society was stratified and the way the city was built as well.
In order to go about their days, they had to ring a bell that would open up a gate. Then, they had to walk through a walled path which differs from dolos to dolos. I also thought that the Cleft of Bones, which was a deep fisure, was an interesting concept, but I didn't think the direction that concept went in was something I liked. I just thought that the conflict used was an odd choice.
THE VOYAGE OF BRENYA BY CARRIE VAUGHN ⭐⭐⭐
I have read and enjoyed some of her short stories before, but because of the emphasis on religion, I didn't particularly enjoy this. This follows Brenya, who goes on a journey across the sea to find the land of the gods who abandoned them in order to stop her lands from being raided.
As I said, I am not the biggest fan of stories with strong religious connotations, so I didn't care to read this. That aside, I still didn't think the rest of the story was particularly interesting either as it was very evocative of middle grade stories with Brenya meeting a bunch of talking animals on the way.
COMFORT LODGE, ENIGMA VALLEY BY CHARLES YU ⭐⭐⭐⭐
There was something about this story. First of all, the format was very unique as the story was told with a series of reviews of this comfort lodge. What made this so interesting to me though, was the casual way in which people talk about the things that happened during their stay. It was unsettling that they talked about strange occurrences like they were nothing but a minor inconvenience.
If you like the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, I think you will enjoy this short story as well as it has a similar tone.
THE EXPEDITION STOPS FOR THE EVENING AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN PASS BY GENEVIEVE VALENTINE ⭐⭐1/2
This was a very short story and it gave me pretty much nothing. A group of people on an expedition where they signed a complicated contract from a company that says that real discovery requires sacrifice. That's it, that's all.
DOWN IN THE DIM KINGDOMS BY TOBIAS S. BUCKELL ⭐1/2
I have no idea what this story was, I was very confused by what was going on. Things would happen and I had no idea what was happening and how it got there. I was able baffled by the fact that the main character was seemingly trying to kidnap a child.
THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BY C.C. FINLAY ⭐⭐⭐
This story was a bit strange because of the situation. The main character is a young girl who end up going on a trip with an older guy. It was odd because she though that he was taking her out to the middle of nowhere to kill her, when he was just trying to propose. Things were made clearer when it was made evident that, at the least, this guy was xenophobic.
Besides being confused, there wasn't a whole lot to this and I don't get why the author told the story the way they did.
AN ACCOUNT, BY DR. INGE KÜHN, OF THE SUMMER EXPEDITION AND IT'S DISCOVERIES BY E. LILY YU ⭐⭐⭐1/2
This story is written as a series of logs of this expedition. Due to that, there is a lot of scientific jargon. I liked this because I simply thought the concept was interesting. A series of underground cities was revealed as the arctic shelf melted due to a nuclear war. I didn't give it a higher rating though because I didn't particularly liked the direction the story went in at the end.
OUT OF THE DARK BY JAMES L. CAMBIAS ⭐⭐⭐
I didn't care for this story for one very particular reason. The main characters are on an alien planet, and stumble upon an attack that caused a death. One of the characters was like, 'oh look, that there is murder.' For some reason this bothers me because made up places are not required to have the same morals and ethics as humans, right?
ENDOSYMMBIOSIS BY DARCIE LITTLE BADGER ⭐⭐1/2
I was happy at first because it was initially set in a museum, but then it went downhill from there. Part of my dislike for this was because this takes place in the deep ocean...and I really don't like the deep ocean. And then there was the ending which was...something.
THE ORPHEUS GATE BY JONATHON MABERRY ⭐⭐⭐1/2
This story had an interesting concept and an interesting take on ghosts. The main characters grandfather worked on a project with Nikola Tesla. They had a theory that ghosts were people who were separated from their bodies and are in a non-corporeal form. They could also be people who slipped through a veil between alternate realities.
With the Orpheus Gate, they thought that they would be able to lift the veil and let all of the ghosts go back to their original bodies. Overall, an interesting concept that wrapped up cleanly, even though it didn't really fit the theme of the book.
HOTEL MOTEL HOLIDAY INN BY DEXTER PALMER ⭐⭐
This was a weird story, and I honestly have no idea what the purpose of this story was nor how it was relevant to the book.
ON THE COLD HILL SIDE BY SEANAN MCGUIRE ⭐⭐⭐1/2
An island called Harbor's Hope disappears and reappears sporadically over the course of hundreds of years. This story did stretch the limits of the theme, but it did a decent job until the rushed and open ending came in.
THE RETURN OF GRACE MALFREY BY JEFFREY FORD ⭐⭐⭐
This was a weird way to tell a story as this isn't really told through the eyes of the titular character. It would have been more interesting and engaging if this was a first-hand account of what happened to Grace in the moment.
THE TOMB SHIP BY BECKY CHAMBERS ⭐⭐⭐
I, unfortunately, don't have much luck with with Becky Chambers and the same goes for this story as I found it to be rushed, even for a short story.
PELLARGONIA: A LETTER TO THE JOURNAL OF IMAGINARY ANTHROPOLOGY BY THEODORA GOSS ⭐⭐⭐
In all honesty, I can't fairly review this story because not one bit of it registered in my mind. The way it was written was so hard for me to read that I just couldn't take in the actual story. There was just a lot of added dialogue in brackets.
THERE, SHE DIDN'T NEED AIR TO FILL HER LUNGS BY CADWELL TURNBALL ⭐⭐⭐
This is a story about a big impossible tree...that's all I got out of this.