the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

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?

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

published January 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend

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I’d thought this book came out way more than two years go?  I got quite the surprise when I flipped to the copyright page and saw that Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology came out in 2017.  When the book came out, I remember seeing tons and tons of hype, gorgeous cover art, and being so buried in Marvel Thor movies that the last thing i wanted was more Thor fiction.

 

When my friend lent me his copy of Norse Mythology, I ran my hands over the embossed cover, tried (and failed) to find constellations in the scattering of stars, and thought to myself “yeah, I’m finally ready for some Thor fiction”.  Thing is, and and I’m so pleased to say it, this is not “Thor fiction”. This book is literally what is says on the tin – this is not reimagining of Norse myths, or retellings, or modern takes on them.  Gaiman studied the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, read the commentaries, and dug into the dusty, cobwebby corners.  He sought to understand where these stories may have come from, how they may have evolved over the centuries, he mourned what has been lost because it was slowly forgotten through the oral tradition and never written down. This volume is a selection of Norse myths, told in Gaiman’s signature style of deceptively simple prose that pulls you in, and just keeps pulling.  His introduction alone is a brilliant piece of writing.

 

If you have ever read Edith Hamilton’s famous Mythology (ok, so it isn’t Norse), and wished for something a little easier on the eyes, something that didn’t assume you had already studied for years, something that was a joy to read, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is for you.

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Told as short stories, Gaiman starts you with the birth of the Gods and Goddesses, and takes you all the way to Ragnarok. The stories happen chronologically, so once Thor is gifted with his hammer, he has it in future stories. Once Frey gives up his sword in payment, he never has it again. Once Balder is dead, he’s dead.    Once it becomes known that Loki has other children that Odin didn’t previously know about, those children become part of the mythology for the rest of time. Once Loki loses the trust of his fellow immortals for the last time, there is no escape for him. And Thor is . . . nowhere near as smart as certain movies would have you believe.

 

This was the perfect bedtime book.  None of the entries are very long, they functioned perfectly as something to read to calm my brain down. Keep in mind tho, that due to the stories being in general chronological order, it’s best if you read them in order.  Treat this book like a mosaic novel made up of various smaller, interlinked stories (wait a minute, is this a fix up novel? lol!).

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called 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?

Fearful Symmetries – I picked this anthology up from a used book dealer. Edited by Ellen Datlow, the TOC includes Pat Cadigan, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Marshall Smith.  That’s the extent of my knowledge. How do you fare with anthologies?

 

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez – Yes, this is the collection that has the famous robot panda sex story. and it is a damn good short story!! Actually, every story in this collection is fantastic (review here), as is Hernandez’s kids book that is out in March (review coming soon)

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.  My favorite Murderbot book. review here. If for whatever reason you only read the first novella in the series and then stopped, please do yourself a favor and read this second one.

(huh. hadn’t realized until right this second that I had so many short stories/novellas in this five for friday photo. oh well)

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross.  I really like Stross’s Laundry Files books, enjoyed Accellerando and Glass House (although I worry those two have not aged well).  Anyone read Rule 34? How is it?

 

Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz – Crap. I meant to put the FIRST book in this trilogy in the photo, and instead I grabbed the LAST book. OOPS. What a fun urban fantasy read! If you like stories where everyone has unique magic, and they have to learn most of the rules as they go, this is the series for you! Protagonist is a father who is just trying to protect his daughter, and you’ll get to meet Valentine, one of my favorite female characters, ever.  Oh, do you like the movie Fight Club? you will really, really love the second book in this series! here my review of the first book, Flex.

 

 

have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  If you’ve not read these, do any look interesting to you?

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss

publishes Feb  5th, 2019

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thanks Mythic Delirium!)

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I have two pieces of excellent news for you today!  The first piece of excellent news is that Theodora Goss’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, is available today! And the second piece of equally excellent good news is that if you’re not quite sure about buying this collection, a few  of the stories I mention below are available to read for free online. I’ve helpfully provided links, which #sorrynotsorry, will make you want to buy the book. Also, have I mentioned how awesome Theodora Goss is?

 

I am still trying to figure out how Goss crammed so much top notch story telling into this slender little book of just over 200 pages.  There is flash fiction, short poems, longer stories, stories that make me giggle, others that made me think deep thoughts, others that were simply joyful to read.  You’d think you could zip through a 200 page collection in a day or two, right? Yeah, you’d be wrong. This is one you want to savor and slowly dip into, enjoying the beautiful prose that will greet you on every page.  Don’t rush your way through, enjoy your walk through the forest, keep your eyes open for any wolves or taking bears, and allow yourself to be lured in.

 

And ok, can we talk about the poetry in this collection for a minute? I am freakin’ terrified of poetry.  Half the the time I just don’t get it, half the time I spend so much time stumbling over the meter enforced word choices that I don’t even know what the sentence means, and the other half the time i just don’t enjoy it. Poetry is clubhouse I’ve never known the secret password to.

 

And now Theodora Goss has me all turned around in the best possible of ways. These poems are photographs, they are short stories until themselves where the idea is more important than the meter. I’d classify them as songs or vignettes before classifying many of them as poems. Sorry if I just insulted all the poets reading this. Thanks to this collection, I feel more comfortable reading poetry, I now feel like I can get something out of it, that there is a story in there for me.  This book is my secret password to the poetry clubhouse.

 

A few words on my favorite poems:

 

Diamonds and Toads which tells a story about two sisters one who has a positive attitude so gets diamonds, and other who has a negative attitude so gets toads,  and how maybe the two sisters are actually one person and that none of us are completely positive or completely cranky, and it’s the balance that helps us live full lives. Diamonds come in handy, but it’s amazing how often toads come in handy.

 

Thorns and Briars, which is a poem you can read in under 60 seconds. I like this one because it starts out as a fairy tale or myth might, where some is locking their heart away for the right person to find. And then, well, life happens, and the right person does claim her heart.

 

Goldilocks and the Bear, which tells an endearing story about how Goldilocks really met the bear that she ends up marrying. Apparently I just love stories about thieves and bears and honey and people realizing it’s ok to be vulnerable and living happily ever after and that a strong relationship means knowing your partner isn’t perfect and will never be perfect, and that’s kind of what makes them perfect.

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The Future is Female!  25 Classic Science Fiction Stores by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek

published in 2018 (features scifi stories from 1928-1969)

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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When a friend offered to let me borrow his copy of The Future is Female,  I jumped at the chance. The volume features science fictioni short stories dating back to 1928, and featuring authors like C.L. Moore, Kit Reed, Judith Merril, Kate Wilhelm, Leigh Brackett, and of course Ursula K. LeGuin and James Tiptree, Jr., among many, many others.   I pick up a lot of random scifi anthologies and single author collections, I liked the idea that this one pulled fiction from across so many decades and generations. There is also a companion website, womensf.loa.org, that offers more in depth author biographies, and a truly excellent trove of cover art of the magazines and anthologies where these stories were originally featured. (Note to self: remember this website later this month when we’re talking about scifi cover art!)

 

The introduction, by editor Lisa Yaszek, gives a very, very quick summary of three generations of writers, and the pulp magazines they wrote for.  I got a chuckle out of Yaszek’s discussion of why these female writers often wrote under a pseudonym – in a number of cases it was to protect their jobs, their privacy, and to protect their government clearance.  I also laughed out loud at the editors mention of some authors with female names, who upon further research, turned out to be men!

 

Designed to be read in the order presented,  I was a jerk and jumped all around in the table of contents, reading what looked interesting first. So far, I’ve read only a handful of the short stories, here are my thoughts on them.   And yes, there are spoilers in some of these mini-reviews, and no I don’t feel bad about the spoilers. These stories are in many cases, older than my parents!

 

The Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore (1934) – this is a famous short story, which I am embarrassed to say I have never read until now.  A sci-fantasy starring Moore’s famous Jirel of Joiry, Jirel must defend her fallen lands against the invader Guilliame. Since no weapon on earth can destroy Guilliame, Jirel travels to an unearthly underworld in search of a weapon that can stop him. Here’s where things go from an epic fantasy to sci-fantasy – there are changes in gravity, changes in the laws of physics, possibly alien technology. I love the atmospheric feeling in this story! Makes me want to read a lot more Moore.  She hasn’t got time to wonder about all the amazing (and sometimes horrifying) things she comes across, her goal is Get the Weapon, and then Get Home, and then Kill Guilliame. What she has to do to get the weapon, and what the weapon is, I was not expecting any of this, and I hope it was shocking in the 1930s. Highly recommended.

 

Space Episode by Leslie Perri (1941) –  Lida, Michael, and Erik are astronauts, and upon return to Earth their ship was hit by a micro-meteor, doing damage to one of the engines. If they are going to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, someone has to go outside the ship to repair the engine. With the damage to the airlock, whoever goes outside will not be able to get back in. One of these astronauts must sacrifice their life to save the other two.  Lida assumes one of the men will make the sacrifice, but they turn out to be cowards, so (spoiler) she does it. When this story was originally published, apparently male science fiction fans took offense to having to read about two cowardly male characters. Is Lida a heroic female astronaut? Or is she a heroic astronaut?

 

That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948) – a cautionary tale. The bombs fell far away, but the radiation and chemicals are in the air here too,  causing children to be born with horrible mutations. Maggie is sure her unborn baby will be fine, and when her husband Hank gets called back to the labs after their daughter’s birth, Maggie sends him letters telling him about their little girls beautiful face, and her laughter, and her development.  If there is anything wrong with their daughter, Maggie hasn’t said a word. In fact, their little girl seems to be developing quicker than expected, at less than a year old, she can speak and can even sing a little! When Hank is finally granted shore leave to spend days on end with his wife and baby daughter,  he discovers a secret he must keep, forever. I was not AT ALL prepared for the shocker of an ending. In the biography area, it is mentioned that not only was That Only A Mother Merril’s first SF story, but it was written to win a bet with John W. Campbell. And yes, she won the bet handily.

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As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

published October 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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You probably recognize Joe R. Lansdale’s name from his famous Hap and Leonard series, and fans of absurd comedy-horror will recognize his name from the novella turned movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

 

His recent short story collection Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories offers an odd yet satisfying mix of stories. There’s a little bit of everything in here – post apocalyptic, Depression era drama, the Old West,  wrestling, you name it. For the most part, these stories involve characters who have good intentions, people who are trying to do the right thing surrounded by societies that a broken down, corrupt, and in one case even a Lovecraftian hellscape.  The environments these characters are thrown into – no good can come out of these places. But these are all Lansdale characters, which means they will tell all the things that are working against them to fuck right off.

 

Each story is followed by Lansdale’s notes – was the story written for a particular editor or anthology? What was he thinking about when he wrote the stories? I wish these notes had preceded the stories instead of followed them, I found my interest grew when I started reading his notes first. (Update from the publisher:  The final version of the book has his notes before each story. I was reading an ARC.)

 

Before you hop into Driving to Geronimo’s Grave,  be aware that these are not science fiction of fantasy stories – This is character driven American Literature – only some of which has SF-nal or supernatural elements.  And if you are offended by swear words, don’t even pick this book up.

 

Here are my thoughts on the stories I enjoyed most.

 

My stand out favorite story was the Lovecraftian “In the Mad Mountains”  (2015). Survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on an icy plain. They can freeze to death, or try to survive.  Amelia and Gavin explore the area, find supplies, and try to guess where they are. It’s obvious there is some kind of creature who has picked off other people who may have found themselves here, and the mishmash of shipwrecks doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s terrifying, yet Amelia stays cool and has a scientific curiosity about where they may be. When the two of them find an airplane that appears to be in perfect working order, is it a trap, or an escape? If you’ve ever read any of Lovecraft’s original Cthulhu mythos short stories, you know a goodly chunk of it borders on unreadably bad.  But I love the idea of deep ones, of gods who wants and desires humans can never understand, I enjoy the mythos. “In The Mad Mountains” was an excellent combination of the mythos and inescapable terror I enjoy, combined with well paced action and smart characters.

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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.
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