by Various Authors – Anne C. Petty (Ed.)
“There always is a story. And there is a story here, Mr. Dixson. But you must discover it. If you are to do that, you must see what I have to show you. You must understand the world better than you know it now.”
Limbus, Inc. is a tightly themed anthology populated by only 5 authors, 5 novellas. Individualized views of the Limbus organization itself–slightly removed from our world, slightly alien, slightly demonic, all mystery–tied together by the small press publisher Matthew who’s reading the book containing the 5 stories provide a successful shared-world launching pad. It combines to an interesting angle on the dark organization theme, some variation of which is probably happening right now outside all our doors.
**Prologue** – A deranged-looking man walks into a failing small bookstore/small press publisher with a book he wants published under his arm. Matthew, the store owner tells the man he is in no position to buy a book from anyone, and the ragged man responds that he’s not selling it, he’s giving it, for the contents of the book are 100% true and too important for others not to see. It must be printed for the public. The man abruptly leaves the bookstore and the startled owner opens the book and begins to read:
“The Slaughter Man” – Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Our hero, The Sticker, a man working in a slaughterhouse with a knife and draining the blood from cattle, is having a bad time. His wife recently left him and his boss hates him, and upon a rather eventful termination of employment he accepts a long shot job from a mysterious 12-year-old recruiter. He’s introduced to the Limbus corporation and is given employment with a small team on an alien ship procuring food for the ever-hungry princess by slaughtering whatever creature she craves. After a nasty encounter with a particular alien that leaves The Sticker severely injured and his prey covered in his own blood, the princess gets a taste for this new meat and demands The Sticker’s flesh while the team attempts to formulate an escape plan.
(This one is a bit disturbing, and undeniably effective.)
“The Sacrifice” – Brett J. Talley
Ex-Marine Ryan wakes in a hospital with vague memories of the fiery redhead Katya from a PTSD meeting, a drink in a club far stronger than it should have been, and a sharp pain in his side. The detective finishes his questions about the stabbing and leaves a card for the Limbus Employment Agency, the same card Katya had given him earlier. Looking for change after his recovery Ryan goes to Limbus and receives a job to rescue the relative of a powerful man, but things get out of hand when he learns this is not a normal kidnapping.
**Mathew** – Mathew sits back from the book the stranger handed him, having completed the first two disturbing stories, and decides he needs a drink. At a local bar and old acquaintance of his shows up and hands him something that sends Matthew sprinting back to the bookstore to resume reading.
“One Job Too Many” – Joseph Nassise
Nate, an ex-Recon soldier, is heavily insulted by his boss and fired at the same time and takes it out on the man by smashing his face in. After bailing himself out of jail he returns home to find his girlfriend has left him and moved everything out, so he goes on a 4-day bender and runs into an old pal who hands him an employment card for Limbus. Nate accepts the job after meeting a recruiter and begins serving missions where he travels via high tech ‘farcaster’ to perform certain tasks. As the jobs mount he realizes he may be having major impacts on the world and begins questioning himself and the agency.
**Mathew** – Matthew is now panicking, and calls a friend at the local precinct to ask advice, checking into the possible truth of what he’s been reading. He asks his contact Charlie if he’s ever heard of a company called ‘Limbus’ and Charlie responds that whatever he’s gotten himself into, get out right now and hangs up. Matthew returns to the book.
“We Employ” – Anne C. Petty
Dallas, a man who’s found himself homeless and destitute after an unsuccessful stint at college, comes across a Limbus, Inc. employment card, returns to his parent’s house to clean up, borrow some clothes and $40, and answers the ad. He is soon hired to walk a particular dog for 10 days straight at $200 per day, but once on the job he realizes there’s much more going on than he was told and he’s up against a 10 day deadline to save an extraordinary life from an unknown threat.
(Loved the ending here.)
“Strip Search” – Jonathan Maberry
Sam Hunter, ex-cop and private eye, spots a Limbus business card on the floor of his office. After a few beers he retrieves the card which tells him he’s to have a visitor within the next two minutes. When an improbably gorgeous woman enters and gives him a story about a missing 15 year old girl, and ties the disappearance in with 16 unreported and gruesome murders of young prostitutes, Sam takes on the job and begins hounding an extremely powerful organization of elite cult members against which he should have no chance. But he’s not exactly your stereotypical man.
(Maybe the best story of the bunch, with a top notch action scene and a terrific ending)
**Epilogue** – Well, you’ll just have to read it.
This collection has five different voices telling shared world stories working together beautifully, painting pictures reflecting many of the dirtier elements of our planet, hidden beneath the elitist powers and privileges we’re hearing so much of today. While it smacks of conspiracy theory, the nutcases are not the battered souls who believe there are shadowy organizations running parts of the world; the nutcases are the privileged souls who don’t.
“Mr. Samuelson, I hope you’re not trying to tell me you believe in witches.”
The man rubbed his chin and pursed his lips. “No, not quite, though I have seen enough to discount nothing.”