October 27, 2017

James Wymore et al.: "Chaos Chronicles"

Title: Chaos Chronicles [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Actuator (book 3 of 4)
Author: James Wymore et al. [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year: 2016
Age: It's marketed as an adult book, but it can be read by teens, though a few stories are a bit heavy on horror
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Eclectic bunch of stories, covering a wide range of genres and (fictitious) eras. We get a glimpse of how the Change affected some people unaware of the Actuator's existence, but mostly, lots of behind-the-scenes about Machine Monks who weren't main characters in the previous books.
Cons: Not every genre tackled in here can be everybody's cup of tea.
Will appeal to: Those who like eclectic short-story collections. Those who want another (and more insightful) perspective about the Actuator.

Blurb: Scattered all across the world, the Machine Monks struggle to deal with the saboteur’s next big move. Isolated in a situation they’ve never experienced before, their mission to collect all the Actuator keys grows desperate. 
An elven ranger finds himself in the Old West. He accepts a quest from a strange lawman in exchange for help returning to the home he loves.
When the world’s most dangerous kaiju marches on manga-inspired Japan, can Isaac defeat it using only his wits and the power of anime?
A honeymoon safari goes horribly wrong. Without guns, how do you fight against ancient wildlife with a mind of its own?

Stranded in Camelot, Machine Monk Elizabeth Darling seeks a way home to Steampunk London - and finds an unexpected surprise in the medieval forest.
While Lennie is traveling to a safe haven with her little brother, disaster strikes and she is forced to rely on a woman with a dark secret.
Brian and his crew face the saboteur face to face in a high tech war that will alter the fate of the world. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. And all the books I received from them were generously sent with no strings attached.


I usually don't read anthologies, unless they 1) contain stories by one of my favourite authors, 2) are part of a series I'm reading, or 3) have a unifying theme that calls to me like a siren song. Case #2 comes into play here, since the stories in Chaos Chronicles all give us a taste of the life after the Actuator (a reality-bending machine) has turned the whole world into a patchwork of different, often plain weird realities. To be more precise, all these stories are chronologically set right after the events in Return of the Saboteur, so that, unlike the previous collection Borderlands Anthology, they can hardly be read by someone who hasn't followed the series so far. But the good news is, even with all the set and character variety, this bunch is more close-knit, and actually makes the plot progress (this is why Chaos Chronicles is Book 3 in the series, while Borderlands Anthology was Book 1.5). Book 2 in the series, Return of the Saboteur, was a game changer. We know now who was responsible for turning what was a mere experiment (the Actuation) into a worldwide nightmare. We know why. But the real catch is, the same person caused the virtual borders between the different realities to fall, so that now different types of characters and/or monsters from different eras can coexist in the same space, with crazy, but intriguing consequences. Well, wacky ones too, but I will admit that it's fun πŸ˜„. [...]


The Ruin of Man by Matthew S. Cox is a perfect example of this mix-up. What are an elf, a female vampire and her chaser, and a superhero little girl doing together? Plus, Übergirl the superhero misses her family (the one before the Actuation) like any other kid would, and her Achilles heel is...an utter disgust for vegetables πŸ˜„. The story is in equal parts funny and gory, and all-around enjoyable. And well, Cox writes the best children.
I didn't expect to enjoy Memories of a Kaiju as much as I did, since I know squat about the genre - but this story is both a love letter to anime and a fond laugh at its expenses. Two Machine Monks and a handful of teens try to defeat a Godzilla-like monster, and in the midst of it, we learn a lot about how the Actuator works and the Monks used to operate. The story continues in Big Trouble in Greater Tokyo, which is darker and gorier, but still amusing.
Stranded in Camelot reprises the story of the Machine Monk Elizabeth (seen in Return of the Saboteur). Again, I'm not a fan of Arthurian legends, but I really liked this one. We get an interesting peak into the mind of a Machine Monk in the wake of her shattered illusions, plus a certain character makes a surprise appearance under a different guise.
The last story, Battle Mountain, ties in with the previous installment, and I quite enjoyed the sci-fi setting and the way the protagonist (seen in the Book 2) tries to redeem himself. Also, it's a perfect intro for the fourth and last book.


Oh, and there's more. Talking dinos meet elves and ordinary tourists. A Nessie lookalike encounters zombies, while a tentative lesbian love story plays on. Characters we've read about in the previous books make a comeback, or get the spotlight. The only stories that didn't particularly work for me were Eyes in the Void (just because I'm not fond of noir-esque tales, but I have to admit the ending was clever and unexpected) and Monsters in Chicago (since it's written in a slang? phonetic writing? that forced me to stop reading after a few lines...maybe it's just me as a non-native speaker, but it was a strain). But as a whole, this book worked for me. It might have something to do with the fact that there are only nine of them, so they're mostly longer than average...but these stories appealed to me much more than the previous collection did. There's more room for introspection, and for us to understand the minds of the Machine Monks (who are responsible for the patchwork of twisted, often horrorish realities the world has become) and how they deal with the realisation of the nightmare they've unleashed. Also, a few of these tales piqued my interest even more than the two previous novel installments, and I thought they were better executed. I was wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars, but finally decided to round it up for these reasons.
The last chapter in this series is coming out in less than a month...brace yourself for more madness πŸ˜‰. 

For my "Fractured Earth" review (first installment in the series) click here.
For my "Borderlands Anthology" review (installment 1.5 in the series) click here
For my "Return of the Saboteur" review (second installment in the series) click here.
For more Adult books click here.


  1. It's hard to find anthologies that have more than one or two stories that appeal. While there were one or two that didn't work for you - this sounds like a winner overall.

    The Ruin of Man is the one that grabs my attention.

    For What It's Worth

    1. Ah, that one is violent and gory, and still so cute.


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