the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

Welcome to  Five for Friday! The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

 

 

This week we have two classics, to works of translated fiction and a surprise non-fiction book!

 

 

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967) – Would you look at that cover art!  and would you believe I’ve never read a Zelazny novel?  yeah, gotta fix that. Good thing this book is my local scifi book club’s pick for July.  Might be scifi, might be fantasy, might be a mix of both.  a mix of future planetary colonization and Hindu mythology.  I love scifi, I love mythology, so I am super excited to read this!

 

Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist by Lola Robles (2016) – This was recommended to me by Rachel Cordasco, so I had to give it a try!  Human scholar (the titular linguist?) travels to an alien world to meet the locals. there is a friendly nomadic group and a cave-dwelling group that are blind.  From what little info I can find about this book, it sounds like it might be a little bit Left Hand of Darkness, a little bit The Sparrow?

 

The Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (1946?) – this volume is all three novels together. This a classic, and at 1100 pages it looks intimidating.  Is this worth reading?  like, it looks fancy on my bookshelf, but if I’m never going to read it that real estate could be put to better use.

 

Koiminogatari by Nisioisin (2019) – Narrated by Kaiki Deishu!  If you’re familiar with the anime (or the books!) you’ll know Kaiki is the most brilliantly fucked up sympathetic villain  EVER!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should that Nisioisin is a best selling author in Japan, and that if you’re new to this series you shouldn’t start with this book.  Unforunately, you need to start somewhere near the beginning, which means starting with either Bakemonogatari or Nisemonogatari.  The books are paced MUCH better than the anime, but the anime is super stylish!

 

Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight by Dr. Sharon Heller (2003)  a non-fiction book in Five for Friday, what??   Sensory Defensive Disorder is an actual thing! it isn’t in my head,  I’m not making it up, i’m not doing these things for the purpose of being difficult.  i read the list of “common symptoms” of Sensory Defensive Disorder to my husband and he said I had every single one. I really can not wait for Sensory Defensive Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder to legit be on the autism spectrum.  although i do hate that it is called a “disorder”, it makes me feel broken and defective.  Cuz,  like, i don’t feel broken?  I just feel the way I’ve always felt?

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

For the first entry in this series, and more info on The Big Book of Classic Fantasy edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, click here.

 

This isn’t braggable progress through The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, but darn if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this week’s stories!  This week I got to enjoy folklore, cautionary tales, and satire from 1819 to 1918.

When I was a little girl, my mom would tell me the story of Rip Van Winkle as a bedtime story.  I don’t remember if she ever read the story out of a storybook, but I know she didn’t need a book to tell us the story.  Washington Irving published “Rip Van Winkle” as a short story in 1819, and it has been part of New York folklore ever since. (Does anyone remember an animated movie of this? I can’t tell if I’m getting my cartoon memories mixed up with the old Legend of Sleepy Hollow animated movie??)   My parents grew up in New York, and Rip Van Winkle was the local story that everyone knew, and that everyone told to their children.  If you’re not familiar, it’s the story of a bumbling husband who shirks his obligations, and is one day walking through the woods with his dog and his hunting rifle.  He follows a strange man through the woods until the come upon the strangers friends, who are playing nine-pins. The sound of the pins is the sound of thunder. Rip drinks some of their beer, and on the way home he sits against a tree and falls asleep.  He wakes up and decades have passed. He was raised in the Catskill mountains as a loyal British subject, who the hell is General Washington, and where is his wife??? The story has a happy as possible an ending. I got shivers reading this, this, this was the story my mom told little me as a bedtime story! And now it is in this big book of classic fantasy?   I did not expect to have a personal connection with anything in this book, that is for sure!

 

Everyone has heard of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Even if you’ve never read Frankenstein you surely have seen a movie version or at least have some concept of the story. I always knew that Shelley wrote other works, but never came across any. Until now!  Her short story, “Transformation”, first published in 1831, is considered an early example of “doppleganger” fiction. To be honest, the first half of this story was painfully boring, and I almost stopped reading. Businessman’s son gets everything he wants, is totally spoiled, flaunts his wealth. Dad dies, he inherits, and instead of buying a house for he and his betrothed to live in, he blows it all and makes a complete idiot of himself.  I was bored by this point, but good thing I kept reading, because the story got good! As he is walking along the beach having a pity party, he sees a shipwreck off in the distance, and who should float to shore, but a dwarf and chest of gold! The dwarf says “trade bodies with me for 3 days, and I’ll give you this chest of gold”. Figuring he has nothing left to lose, our hapless narrator agrees. Surprising no one, the dwarf in his body apologies to his betrothed, and is about to marry her, leaving our narrator in the dwarf’s body forever.  He attacks the dwarf who took his body, and this is where Shelley blew my mind. About to be mortally injured, the dwarf-in-his-body says

“Strike home! Destroy this body – you will still live many: may your life be long and merry!”.

If the narrator-in-dwarf’s-body kills his human body, he will never be able to return to his true body. What to do??? Boring start, fan-freaking-tastic ending.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to  Five for Friday! The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

 

Woohoo,  all new (to me!) books this week!

 

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker (2019) – the forthcoming fantasy from R.J. Parker (Age of Assassins) comes out later this summer. It’s got a map, the chapters have fun names, there’s a ton of stuff about dragons,   it looks to be nautical/military fantasy with snark?  I’ve not read any Barker yet,  what do y’all think of his stuff?

 

Stay Crazy by Erica Satifka (2016) –  I went on a book buying binge at Apex Books a few weeks ago, and this was part of my haul!  I’ve had this book on my radar since it came out, it looks weird and fun. I’m about 80 pages in, and yes, it is weird, and fun, and surreal!  If you ever wished Philip K Dick was more fun to read, this is the book for you.

 

Apex Book of World SF vol 5, edited by Cristina Jurado (2018) – yep, another Apex book! the newest volume in one of my favorite anthology series!  If you’ve been enjoying Rachel Cordasco’s SF In Translation and maybe you’re not sure where to start, or you don’t want to commit to some big novel,  you can’t do much better than any volume in this series.

 

Aetherchrist by Kirk Jones (2018) – you know,  once I started shopping on the Apex site, i kind of couldn’t stop. Also, I’m a sucker for a back cover copy that includes the words “surreal” and “analog”.  This book seems just over novella length, something I can blast through in a weekend.

 

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds (2019) – this is my book club’s pick for this month. I can’t wait to write a review of this book, it was so fun!!  so, it has a super weird start. . .  because the book starts at the very end of the story.  and there is time travel, my favorite!  and time travel paradoxes, my double favorite!  I love time travel stories that are all like “you can’t change the past, so don’t even try”,  but what if you could? then what?

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have edited a handful of these “big books”.  My first one was The Weird Compendium. A glorious example of scope-creep, The Weird Compendium clocks in at around 1100 pages.  I remember that I got it, as a hardback, out of the library, and the book was too thick to fit through the book return shute. Once it came out in paperback, I bought it, and it was still too heavy to lug around the house.

 

Now, the Vandermeers are back with The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (available July 2nd from Vintage books), which they have somehow kept to only 850-ish pages.  Is this book the end all be all of Classic Fantasy? Oh goodness no. This book barely scratches the surface, and the editors know that.  Skimming through the table of contents, I see tons of names I’ve never heard off, I see names of authors I read in “world literature” classes in school,  skimming over this table of contents makes me feel like i’m in an international grocery store, and I want to try a taste of everything.

Something I love about these Big Books, is that there is no need to read the stories in any kind of order. I mean you could if you wanted to, but you can also jump around to whatever looks interesting.  I also don’t feel the need to finish the book in any specific period of time. The table of contents might be like walking through the world’s best international grocery store . . . but it also feels like reading through the entries of an encyclopedia.  You don’t read the encyclopedia cover to cover, do you? Well, I don’t. I’ve had a copy of The Weird Compendium for I don’t know how many years, and I still feel in no hurry to finish it. These are books you have with you your whole life, that you dip your toes into whenever you want. I guess in a good way, they sort of all like encyclopedias.

 

The Vandermeers purposely looked far and wide for this collection –  grabbing the edge of the envelope of fantasy, looking for more translated fiction than ever before.  The table of contents is like looking up at the stars on a summer night – you see hundreds of stars, you know there are millions more out there just waiting for you to find.  I think a lot of readers will read these stories and say to themselves “this is fantasy???”, and well yes, it is. Fantasy is far more, and wider than you thought!

 

I’m not going to review this collection as a whole, as I don’t have the patience to read and think about 100+ stories, and I believe it would be pointless to try to distill 850 pages of 200 years of fantasy into 2000 words.  Instead, I’ll dip my toes in, and let you know about a handful of stories from random locations in the table of contents, time period, theme, and location. Were they fun? Were they fantastical? And you know, I do have the Weird Compendium and The Big Book of Science Fiction,  so who knows, maybe this is the start of a long series of blog posts about short stories!

 

Let’s start at the very end. The very last story in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is “Leaf by Niggle”, by J.R.R. Tolkein, written in 1945.  This story starts out very Hobbit-y – with a man who enjoys his quiet time, but also always helps his neighbors with anything they need. Niggle paints in his spare time, and the time, effort, and resources he puts into his paintings are not valued by his community.  He has a painting he has been working on for years, and to make the painting look bigger, he puts his other paintings around it, completely changing the environment of the image in the original painting. This is fun for him. What is the value of art? What is the value of the time you spend on your hobbies?  And what if the art you create isn’t very good but brings you unending joy? This gently written story was an absolute joy to read! I’m pretty sure I cried at the end. There is this weird, wonderful, fantastical thing that happens to Niggle, and I’m sure there are many ways to interpret what exactly is going on.

 

And because I’ve mentioned Tolkien, I’m bound by the laws of the internet (and my goofy sense of humor) to post this:


Read the rest of this entry »

Garden of Eldritch Delights, by Lucy A. Snyder

published in 2018

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This book has been on my radar for a while.  It’s small press, so while I could have ordered a copy online anytime, I was hoping to find a printed copy in the wild.

 

It’s always nice when life hands you a two-fer.  I snagged a copy of Garden of Eldritch Delights at the dealer room at StokerCon in mid May, and then a few weeks later one of the stories in the collection, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” was featured in Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread series.  The stars must have been aligned! It was almost as if a strange force was arranging things so that I could read this book, and engage with the forbidden knowledge found within it’s pages . . .

 

Not sure what Lovecraftian fiction is?  Actually, you probably do. Ever played Arkham Horror? Ever read a Charles Stross Laundry novel? Did you read Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed Triptych or Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom?   Authors love playing in Lovecraft land because you never run out of opportunities to provoke alien intelligences that are influencing humanity, elder creatures who view humans the way we view ants, forbidden knowledge,  people who aren’t quite human, unnerving horrors from below, and lots of other fun creepy and over the top stuff.  You’ve probably read something “lovecraftian” without even realizing it.

 

Here’s the thing tho –  H.P. Lovecraft was not a very good writer. Yeah, I said it. I’ve read his original and it’s . . .  ok? Kinda meh? I can appreciate his writing only because of where other writers went with it.

 

And where Lucy Snyder goes with it. . .  damn! Her delightfully dark collection Garden of Eldritch Delights takes Lovecrafts ideas of elder gods, humans enslaved by alien intelligences, mind control, and even evolution and the apocalypse, and more, and gives them a decidedly modern twist. If you enjoy modern takes on Lovecraftian fiction,  this is the short story collection for you! These stories are excellently written, enjoyable to read, and were just the right length for my short attention span. An unexpected surprise for me was how many of these stories revolve around sibling relationships.

Read the rest of this entry »

My local book group is reading Exhalation, the new collection of short stories from Ted Chiang. All of the stories previously appeared in anthologies or magazines, this is the first time these stories are all appearing in one place, with story notes at the end. Chiang’s prose is thoughtful,quietly powerful, and without agenda. He is giving you characters, challenges, and environment, and leaves it entirely up to the reader to decide how (if at all) to react to what is presented. In my experience, much of his work reads like a diary, or a private essay, or a longform article. He is telling fiction, but in a way that makes it feel like you’ve travelled ten years into the future where this technology is just how life is, now. Or in the case of “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny”, that you’ve travelled into the past.

 

Exhalation gives me reason to return to two of my favorite Chiang stories, “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” (Subterranean Press 2010), and “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” (Subterranean Online, 2013), both of which I have written about before.  These two short stories have been in my brain for 5+ years now, it’s been fun to chew on them during the years, to discover all the layers as time goes by.

“The Lifecycle of Software Objects” reminds me of Blackberries and the online game Second Life.  It reminds me of people who don’t have children, but instead have spoiled pets referred to as “fur-babies”. It reminds me of Asimov’s Bicentennial Man.   At a SciFi Convention a few years ago, in a panel that I was on, we were talking about Artificial Intelligence, and this story came up (I may have been the one to bring it up).  I said the story “was about what happens when our children grow up, and discover adult things”, and a well meaning person in the audience let me know that “that’s not what that story is about.”

 

On the top layer,  “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” is about Ana, who is a programmer at a company that makes “digients”.  They want to make AIs that can learn, and are able to easily interact with people, so the programmers and others within the company “raise” the digients, much as you would the world’s smartest puppy – socializing them, teaching them games, teaching them to be patient  when an adult is busy. If you go on vacation, or get bored, just put your digient in suspension until you’re ready to play with it again. Remember Tamagochi’s? Like that, times a million. Technology changes over the years, and not only are the socialized and raised digients ready for sale to the masses, there are now robot bodies that your digient can be downloaded into, so it can experience the real world, and walk around with you.

 

The story jumps ahead –  most of Ana’s friends move on,  they have children of their own, and no time or interest in what to them was never more than a digital pet they were being paid to raise. A friend who is planning family says she doesn’t need digients anymore, because “now she has the real thing”.  Ana feels left behind.

 

Technology changes yet more – the online server where the digients are hosted is so far in the technical past that its user must self fund it. And there are only a few people left.  Is the digient experient over? Should Ana give up on the digient she has raised for over 15 years? If software is not of use, if it can not be monetized, what is the purpose of its existence?  What if you, the “parent” of the software, don’t agree with how it is being monetized?

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been dabbling in a lot of books this week. Making slow progress, but not quite going all in on anything.

 

I finished reading Exit Strategy by Martha Wells,  and I want to give this another read through before I write a review. I feel like I rushed through the first half of it.  Although knowing me, my entire review will be some version of “This is why we shouldn’t build humanoid robots. We’ll keep assuming that since they look sort of human that they want human things, and when it turns out that they don’t want human things, our feewings will get hurwt. But like, we couldn’t have respected their answer when they said ‘don’t want human things, thanks’?”

 

And I’ve been bouncing in and out and around these three titles. If I’m “all in” on anything, it’s definitely the supernatural thriller by Aliette de Bodard.  The end is super intense, I’ve probably got 70 or so pages to go!

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette De Bodard is a supernatural thriller/murder mystery that takes place in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The investigator of the maybe-murder is the Priest for the Dead, and the accused murderer is the priest’s brother. There’s all sorts of dirty politics and infidelity and secret children and judgy parents and oh, the Aztec gods are real. You can talk to them, and they’ll tell you what they require as sacrifice and/or worship. and then they might kill you. I like stories where the gods are real. intense stuff!  You like de Bodard’s Xuya stories right?  you’ll like this!

 

the weirdly titled The History of Soul 2065 is a mosaic novel by Barbara Krasnoff, available later this spring.  As soon as I saw that “Sabbath Wine” was in the table of contents, I knew I had to read it, cry for an hour, and then keep reading.  These interlinked stories follow two families across generations and continents.  I’m not far into the book yet, but I can already see how their family trees intertwine.  I like mosaic novels.  I may do a dramatic reading of “Sabbath Wine” while I’m seeing my family for Passover this coming weekend. If you hearing sobbing coming from Maryland, that’s my fault.

 

If any of these get DNFd it’s mostly likely going to be Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovksy. I LOVE the concept of this post apocalyptic novel – the end came, so everyone hid in the subway stations of Moscow, and somehow survived on pigs and mushrooms.  many of the subway tunnels are haunted, different political groups have taken over different stations, gun cartridges are money, people will do anything to survive.  The concept is compelling, the execution is . . . pretty boring actually. I don’t know if it is an artifact of the translation, or if this is the style of the writer, but I am skimming the text a lot because it is so repetitive.

 

What are you reading this week?


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,331 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
Advertisements