The title story in Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection is about a girl who falls from the sky... and into the hands of those who see her, first and foremost, as a possible military asset. To that end, a team of mercenaries in the South Gobi desert is tasked with (really, blackmailed into) assessing her combat-readiness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this doesn’t end well for Team Free World.
“Last Plane to Heaven: A Love Story” is something of a tough love opener: it’s not without flashes of sweetness, but the mercenary at its core is rough-edged, unpleasant and at the end of his proverbial rope. The bleak backdrop of Outer Mongolia, vividly evoked in Lake’s always-precise prose, adds to the sense of menace in this piece. As an entry point into the book, it makes a definitive statement: these tales wind a path through places of shadow and fire.