In Emma Bull's own words, Shadow Unit is fan fiction for a tv series that never existed. Bull thought up this fantastic urban fantasy type tv series, taking ideas from her old favourites such as x-files and The Man from UNCLE, and then brought on board some of her writer friends to collaberate and write for it.
To compare it to more recent tv shows, it has a lot in common with Alphas one of my favs. The series revolves around a small branch of the FBI, the 'Anomalous Crimes Task Force' also commonly called 'the shadow unit', whose job it is to identify and track down Gammas. Who are humans infected with an unknown substance (simply called the 'anomaly'). No one knows what the anomaly is, whether parasite, virus, bacteria etc, but it's effect on humans is to give them supernatural abilities, and then to bend their mind subtly to it's own purpose. Most Gammas end up using their abilities to harm or kill, and thats when the shadow unit gets called in.
The format of the book is as a collection of short stories, called episodes, each written by a different author, but all set within the same universe and timeline. The first episode Breathe makes a very good introduction to the series. As it brings in the character Daphne Worth who has just joined the Shadow Unit team, and is as new to all this as we - the readers - are. Worth was originaly an EMT (thats paramedic for us brits), who trained up to join the team after a nasty encounter with a Gamma that resulted in the death of her colleagues. After meeting the team, Daphne gets to go on her first case. Several victims have been found suffocated to death without any apparent external cause. The Gamma that did it is still out ther, and the team are racing against the clock to put all the evidence together and catch the Gamma before the Gamma takes its next victim.
If you can tell from my comment when I first noticed this series, I was a little excited about the authors involved. In my teens, I loved Emma Bull's lesser known cyberpunk novel Bone Dance. And in the last year or two I've turned into a huge fan of Sarah Monette, I just think she's the bees knees when it comes to fantasy involving lgbt characters, and I'm reading everything of hers that I can get my hands on. I haven't actually read any of Elizabeth Bear's solo work, but her collab work with Sarah Monette is really good. Her work on Shadow Unit has further convinced me that I need to explore some of her stuff soon.
The shadow unit series features a really interesting cast of characters that really draw you in, some great writing, and an inovative new twist to the urban fantasy/paranormal genre.
The episodes were all originally published on the Shadow Unit website. They're still all there and available free of charge if you wish to go through them that way. Theres a helpful wiki built thats immensly helpful. The page for reading order of the episodes is the best place to start if you want to go down that route.
Or.. Most of the episodes have been released collected together in ebook format. This being the first novel, a collection of the first four episodes and extra material. It's easier on the eyes than reading on the website, they're really cheaply priced (72 pence, you can't go wrong!), and of course you would be supporting the authors. Available on Amazon....more
This is a fantastic collection of short stories, a little bit of a mix of mostly fantasy and urban fantasy and fairytale. And each of them contain a gThis is a fantastic collection of short stories, a little bit of a mix of mostly fantasy and urban fantasy and fairytale. And each of them contain a gay or lesbian relationship, but all are done to varying degrees. No two stories are similar.
There were so many really good stories packed into this anthology, and it would be really hard to comment on them all, so I shall restrain myself to mentioning just a few favourites.
"The Coat of Stars" by Holly Black Rafael is a costume designer for stage productions, when he goes home to visit family he is remembering a long lost love from his boyhood: Lyle, who believed in fairies, and died tragically young. Then Rafael wonders if Lyle might never have died at all, but been taken by the fairy. This story blended modern day into fairytale so wonderfully, I loved everything about it. I will be looking for more novels by Holly Black in the future.
"Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland" by Sarah Monette Violet is a young woman who catches the attention of the fairy Queen Nix, and becomes her lover. The story is broken up by a look at three letters that Nix wrote to her human lover. I'm extremely in love with Sarah Monettes writing, and I was so thrilled to find that she'd written lesbian characters, as in fantasy thats a rarity. And Sarah Monette writes so uniquely and beautifully, no review does it justice. I really hope she writes a full length fantasy with lesbian characters in the future!
"How the Ocean loved Magie" by Laurie J Marks Another beautiful UF/fairytale in which a young woman pregnant by donor finds herself inexplicably drawn to the seashore and a far away island, and there becomes the lover of a beautiful mysterious woman with deep black eyes and a love for the ocean. To say more would spoil the mystery.. This was a very moving tale, beautiful and romantic and quite heartbreaking. This is another Author I have to investigate now.
Those were my favourite three of the entire book. But honourable mentions go to "The Price of Glamour" by Steve Berman and "Ever so much more than Twenty" by Joshua Luis.
The only one I found I didn't quite like was "Mr Grimm's fairy tale" by Eric Andrews, and in part because I wasn't sure at all what was supposed to be Queer about it (used the homosexual sense), I couldn't for the life of me spot a hint of gay relationship.. perhaps I'm missing something..? It seemed a little bit out of place tacked onto the end of anotherwise amazing collection of stories.
All in all VERY highly recommended for lovers of Fantasy and fairytales with lgbt themes. And I'm very pleased I found a whole bunch of new authors to check out!...more
Let me start by pointing out that I'm already a huge fan of Sarah Monette. I love everything I've ever read by her. I suppose that could make me biaseLet me start by pointing out that I'm already a huge fan of Sarah Monette. I love everything I've ever read by her. I suppose that could make me biased towards her works, but I'd actually like to think that it only makes me more harshly demanding. Afterall, if I've rated most of her other works 5 stars this one has A LOT to live up to.
But oh look - ANOTHER 5 Star Rating. She's done it again! damn I love this woman.
Kyle Murchison Booth is a quiet, shy, reserved man; an insomniac with very little social life, and seems to spend most of his time at the museum where her works, cataloguing old books and papers. He does however stand out from the crowd, being that he is well over 6 foot tall and all his hair is mysteriously and prematurely pure white. And then add in a brush with necromantic magic that has in some way attuned him to the darker side of life, so that he's practically a ghost magnet. Well. He's certainly my kind of protagonist.
The Bone Key is a collection of 10 short stories (in which Booth is the first person narrator), most of which were originally published separately in various horror zines and publications. Obviously they can each be standalones, but they're much better collected together in one giant ghoulish smorgasboard. Apparently Monette's chief inspiration for Booth was Lovecraftian horror. I'm afraid I can't comment much on that, as I think I was born a little too late in the century and lovecraft completely passed me by! But honestly, this? This was some bloody good horror.
The best things about The Bone Key are probably also the worst things. Hear me out.. The Good: They're scary as f*ck. The Bad: They're SCARY as f*ck. The Good: The individual stories are quite short. You can get through them really quickly. I'd rather not be stuck in the middle of a horror mystery just at bedtime.. I'd 've never get any sleep! The Bad: They're short and they're over quick. Yes they're that good.