Tag Archives: short stories

Retro Review: Pretty Monsters (2008)

Kelly Link (illustrated by Shaun Tan)

ISBN: 978 1 921656 36 1

Text Publishing (2008)

What a fabulous collection! There are so few single-author collections, particularly for younger readers, and it’s even rarer to find one of such quality. Kelly Link is a fantastic author and Pretty Monsters showcases her short stories to great effect. Not always for the faint-hearted, Link explores some of the darker side of speculative fiction, but in an engaging way that examines some interesting themes.

There are just five stories in this collection, and they are diverse in nature, but all equally compelling. The first is “Monster”, which starts out as a deceptively simple story about bullying at summer camp, and turns into something far more sinister. Next is “The Surfer”, which is a long piece examining a not-so-distant or unbelievable future when the flu is starting to hit humanity hard, but intertwined with a story of alien visitation – an interesting combination! This is followed by a true dark fantasy, “The Constable of Abal”, which sees a young girl, thrust into very strange circumstances, trying to find her way in life. The title story “Pretty Monsters” is another long one, but well worth it. Shying around elements of horror and paranormal fantasy, this is a very clever story that follows a group of girls on a rite of passage who get a whole lot more than they bargained for. The final story of the collection, “The Cinderella Game”, is one I read in the excellent Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling anthology Troll’s Eye View last year – it’s subtle creepiness is better suited to this book, for my mind, but the quality of story is undeniable, following a night with a stepbrother and stepsister who take play acting a little too far.

Recommend giving to those who are over Twilight, and want to get into something a bit more meaty, but without the commitment of big fat fantasy or horror novels!

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Retro Review: Warrior Wisewoman (2008)

Edited by Roby James

Norilana Books (2008)

ISBN: 9781934169896

This collection, edited by Roby James, is touted to be inspired by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s long-running (even after her death) Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Where S&S were fantasy collections, Warrior Wisewoman purports to be science fiction with strong female characters taking the lead. I think the title, Warrior Wisewoman actually doesn’t do this goal justice, as to me, both title words indicate fantasy, as does the cover artwork, but regardless, that was the charter the contributors submitted to! Twelve stories, one of them by New Zealand author Douglas A. Van Belle, whose name, incidentally, was the only one that I recognised in any way. However, I imagine that many of the authors in the pages of Warrior Wisewoman will be seen in many more forums in the future. Continue reading

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New Review: Rise (2016)

Mira Grant

A Newsflesh collection

Orbit

ISBN: 9780316309585

Rise is billed as a collection of short fiction, one that brings together every Newsflesh story published so far, along with two brand new, never-before-seen novellas in the world. To me, if seems like more than a collection; the pieces are so deeply connected, enmeshed in the broader universe that Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) has created, with characters crossing from piece to piece, their backstories ever expanding, that it really deserves the moniker of mosaic fiction. Every piece is a building block in the greater whole, and the length of the stories also helps it feel more like a long-form work; the reader is immersed from beginning to end.

I am a massive fan of the Newsflesh world. I had, I believed, hunted down and devoured every related work already, so I was delighted (if somewhat chagrinned) to realise that two of the previously published stories were also new to me, so I got FOUR new Newsflesh pieces, which was very exciting. Each story has a short introduction by the author, offering a little back story to the circumstances surrounding its birth. While these tidbits are little pearls for the rabid fan, and sometimes offer acknowledgement to supporters of the author through the writing process, there were a couple that were a bit spoilery. They perhaps would have worked better as postscripts rather than intros, and it might be worth a new reader skipping them on the first time around. But the stories…oh, the stories…

If you have not read Feed, Deadline and Blackout, you cannot, MUST NOT, read this book. Go away and read the Newsflesh trilogy. All of it. Go on, I’ll wait. You won’t regret it. Okay, you’re back? You didn’t stop at the end of Feed, did you? You read ALL of them? Right, good. Now we can continue.

SPOILERS FOR THE NEWSFLESH TRILOGY (but hopefully not the Rise stories) UNDER THE CUT…

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Retro Review: The Inheritance (2011)

Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm

Harper Voyager

ISBN: 978-0-00-727379-9

The Inheritance is a collection of short stories by alter egos Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm. Containing both original to the collection and reprint stories, The Inheritance is an almost soul baring group of stories, particularly those written under the Lindholm name, which stem from reflections of the author’s own life. Containing two stories set in Hobb’s Elderlings world, this book is a showcase of quality writing and thoughtful plots.

The first seven stories are nominally by Megan Lindholm. In her introduction, the author states that Lindholm’s stories are more concise than Hobb’s, while “Robin still tends to sprawl in her storytelling, so while she takes up as many pages, there are fewer stories by her in these pages.” (p. ix). So it is that the first half of the book are shorter pieces, tending to examine smaller pieces of life, but in a depth and beauty that’s hard to find in short stories today. Some stories are so slightly left of centre that they are almost mainstream, but only almost. The touch of speculation is always there, however covertly. Continue reading

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Retro Review: Kaleidoscope (2014)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

ISBN: 978-1-922101-11-2

August 2014, Twelfth Planet Press

Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios (eds.)

Kaleidoscope is one of the best anthologies I have read for a very long time. It’s not just the concept, which is both necessary and overdue; it’s not just the stories, which are engaging and beautiful and thoughtful and brilliant; it’s not just the way the authors explore science fiction and fantasy from perspectives all too frequently unseen in fiction; it’s all of these things, and that it seems so natural. In this anthology, every story takes a character (or two or three) who is often “othered” in fiction (and life), and makes their differences a part of the story. Readers will see themselves, they will see their friends, they will see their families, their cultures, their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their physical and mental states and they will see them as normal, as okay, as special. Not othered. Important and relevant and very very good, Kaleidoscope offers a powerful message to our society about difference, and about what we, as readers, want (and need) to see in our stories.

Some pieces, such as Tansy Rayner Roberts’ “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, offer a biting commentary on popular culture, couched in humour and teen spirit; others, such as “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu, take a gentler approach, examining first love with a fantasical twist. Some stories shade darker, as with “The Legend Trap” by Sean Williams (set in his Twinmaker universe, an added bonus for fans) and “Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell” by E.C. Myers; still others take a familiar trope and turn it sideways, like Faith Mudge’s “Signature” and “The Lovely Duckling” by Tim Susman. Some of my favourite works in the book were those that embedded the story in the protagonist’s nature, like the magic of Jim C. Hines’ “Chupacabra’s Song” and Karen Healey’s astonishingly good “Careful Magic”. There are so many wonderful stories in the pages of Kaleidoscope that every reader will find a favourite (or two or three), and every reader, teen or adult, will find at least one that speaks to them in deeper ways.

This review was first published at FableCroft on June 18, 2014.

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