Limbus, Inc. is not a short story collection or a themed anthology. It’s “A Shared World Experience,” a set of stories linked by the presence and actions of the mysterious, titular employment agency. Books like this are only as strong as the core concept, and in this case the participating authors had a great gimmick to work with.
Throughout the five stories that make up the bulk of the book, Limbus seeks out characters at low points in their lives, offering them employment scenarios that are tailor-made for their particular skill sets and situations. Of course, a lot of information is held back until the recruits sign on the dotted line, and they soon find themselves in jobs that are far from the simple construction gigs or administrative assistant positions they might have been expecting. How far? How about becoming a glorified food processor for a half-mad alien princess, or a time travelling assassin, for starters.
Limbus, Inc. works because these disparate storylines don’t feel shoehorned in; the mysterious mission of Limbus is flexible enough to accommodate these and just about any others that authors can dream up (and since this is referred to as “Book I” on the title page, here’s hoping more authors get a crack at it). Each tale is self-contained while also contributing to the larger story of Limbus – what is it, and why is it involved in the things it’s involved in? There are a lot of unanswered questions at book’s end, but it’s still a full and satisfying read.
Individually, each story is a strong, entertaining read. Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s “The Slaughter Man” was the perfect story to kick things off, as its scope – it starts out with Texas Chain Saw Massacre-like grit in a bloody stockyard, and ends up on a bizarre alien ship far from Earth – shows just how unpredictable the book as a whole will be. Brett J. Talley’s “The Sacrifice” deals in ancient, underground rituals to appease angry Lovecraftian gods. Joseph Nassise’s “One Job Too Many” gives a look at some of the inner workings of Limbus, wrapped up in a loopy tale of a time-travelling errand boy. Anne C. Petty gives us a glimpse of the agency’s cosmic reach with her alien-centric story “We Employ,” and Jonathan Maberry brings things down to earth with “Strip Search”, the story of a shape-shifting P.I. on the trail of a horrific serial killer.
JournalStone has hit on something really good with Limbus, Inc., a concept in which the possibilities truly are endless. Here’s hoping they continue to recruit top-notch talent to a job that’s tailor-made for their particular skill set: writing stories set in this rich, complex new world.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.