I love to read short stories. Its not that I don't like to read novels, there's just something satisfying about reading through a complete story in one sitting. That is why I tend to gravitate toward short story anthologies - I can get through a story and not have to devote a lot of time to it.
This past Oddmall, I was wandering around the vendor room and came across a man pitching his books. This man was Marcus Calvert. In front of him were three books named Protected, The Book of Schemes, and Unheroic. He described the books as short stories related to the overall theme; Unheroic, for example, all had short stories that dealt with people who were anti-heroes or those who you wouldn't expect to be in the lime light.
The price for one book was right ($15 convention special), so I bought Protected. I'm glad I did.
Protected contains 36 stories and is about 265 pages long with no story more than 8 or 9 pages. From the beginning, I was hooked. Calvert has a style in which he quickly sucks you into the story and then twists it on you, in a very good way. There were many stories I was reading where I thought it was going in one direction and then BAM, something flies out of left field.
The subject matter of the stories are wildly varied. There are some on zombies, super heroes, science fiction, and even angels vs demons. Each story, however, makes excellent use of the setting no matter its length. Calvert does a great job of fleshing out the scene so that, even if he doesn't spell out all the details of the world it takes place in, you can infer them.
Because of that, I think that this would be an excellent book to design RPG scenarios around. Pick a short story, read it, and start playing in that world 15 minutes later. All through this book I kept thinking how I would love to run a game in the story I just read.
My only complaint is that I actually wish some of the stories were longer. Some are so good that when they ended I wanted more. Many times I thought that I could see myself reading more about this place or what was going on. I suppose, however, that if I did run an RPG in one of these stories I could do that. (More ammunition to run a game based on one of them.)
While not every story is a gem, there are enough in this book to make it worth picking up. Calvert's price is right too - you can pick up all 3 books of stories for $30. While I have not read the other two books yet, I plan on purchasing them in the future. I recommend you do as well.