Shadowed Souls by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

A collection of short stories, mostly Urban Fantasy. A few stories were written to stand alone and a few were from series I already appreciate. (Like Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, about Molly.) In general, I enjoyed them, though most weren’t a huge impact–they almost all seem to have been written as easy to skip side adventures that don’t affect the main book series.

The vignettes of established characters from series that I don’t read had a much taller climb. Impossible Monsters was a good stand alone. Hunter Healer was new to me and intriguing. Impossible Monsters was much darker than the rest–it stood out, positively–though I doubt that I’d enjoy whole novels about the character. (The character also has an obnoxious feel of having leveled up that I dislike in non-game world fiction… and even there, usually.) Peacock in Hell also stuck with me.

Clarkesworld 112

Clarkesworld ISSUE 112, JANUARY 2016.
(I’ll post it now and just update it as I read the stories.)

Quick notes on the stories:
The Algorithms of Value by ROBERT REED was an odd and interesting post scarcity story. Parchment is our POV character; over the course of the story, it turns out that she is rich, somewhat famous, and partially responsible for the state of the world. It’s a world of tremendous abundance, at least in terms of material goods. It’s quirky and offbeat, with flickering reflections about modern marriage.

The Abduction of Europa by E. CATHERINE TOBLER. The story gets off to a strong, engaging start, with a solid grounding… and odd asides about Europa and Zeus of myth. It’s a weird world; the struggle to survive it blends into odd hallucinations and dreams, successfully conveyed by the author. It was interesting, but the characters didn’t grow on me much.

Extraction Request by RICH LARSON

Everybody Loves Charles by BAO SHU

The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale by ROBERT SILVERBERG


Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Eox and Daniel Jose Older is an interesting collection of historical and fantasy short stories.

The stories vary in time and place, though most of them are set within the last 500 years. Some of the settings are quite familiar, such as Marigolds, set just prior to the French Revolution. A few of the stories are well outside of my traditional reading, such as Ogres of East Africa, There Will Be One Vacant Chair and The Dance of the White Demons. Many of the others are set since the renaissance, many in Europe or America.

I distracted myself, at times, with trying to identify or predict the element that would make something “marginal” enough to qualify for this collection. That’s a distraction; most of the stories are good, and most offer intriguing new viewpoints.

I’m looking forward to keeping this one in my collection and rereading it. I wonder which ones will stick?

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women is a mixed anthology, with several very good stories, many interesting and good, and a few “meh”. Interestingly, Martin’s story that’s boldly advertised is in the last category. The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens describes an interesting time, but the POV selected is a historian who confines himself to the broad sweep… which means that there’s no personality; other than that the world is fiction, it’s almost as dry as a real world history book.

A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman, was a fascinating look into real history, with a solid look at Queen Constance. It’s interesting, and features a strong protagonist–despite her not matching current fantasy fiction, picking up a sword an leading her men. There is a lot of enduring and being moved by outside forces… I really liked it.

Joe Abercrombie’s Some Desperado kicks off the book. It has a very western flavor (despite a lack of sixguns); it’s tense and gritty, well handled.

Rather than going story by story, I’ll just note that there’s a wide range of stories. For a very broad range of action, adventure, noir, fantasy, or sci-fi, there’s at least an interesting story or two for you.

N Space by Larry Niven

A mix of novel excerpts, short stories, new short stories in the worlds of his novels, and blog like things– Niven’s Laws, Superman’s reproductive challenges, and other random musings. Most stories begin with a page or so discussion about how the story came about, what his life was like when he wrote it, or similar. This is a reread– I have no idea when I last read this book.

I half remembered several of the stories; I remembered Cloak of Anarchy and was happy to get a chance to revisit it. In general I liked the short stories, disliked the novel excerpts, and found the blog like elements interesting but easily forgotten. As I was reading it, I found it easy to pick up several other books in the middle– a particular hazard faced by a book of short stories.

Overall I recommend this as a library book– check it out, skip over any story that doesn’t grab you by page 2, and enjoy the great nuggets scattered among the remainder.