Fabulous adult sword and sorcery from an author who, for me, sadly turned his writing to a younger demographic after his Abhorsen series. I love the fFabulous adult sword and sorcery from an author who, for me, sadly turned his writing to a younger demographic after his Abhorsen series. I love the fact that Hereward and Fitz are not nice in the pursuit of their mission. A lot of people die because of their actions, but in the end it doesn't matter because they are pretty damn ruthless. That hard edge is what makes this gritty-ish sword and sorcery and not noble high fantasy.
Nix's short stories have been hit or miss for me in the past. At his weakest, which is still pretty good, his stories aren't really whole creations, they are just setups with no pay offs. The first chapter in a novel that is never going to be written. My favourite story, "Infestation" (not from this collection), is a fully realized vampire hunter story with a main character who might come off as a surfer dude initially but is much, much more. I do have the vain hope that he'll turn 'Infestation' into a full novel but the story does stand on its own.
Because there are three Hereward and Fitz stories Nix actually does build up a head of steam and I think the stories can stand on their own. That said, with anything that Nix succeeds at, I WANT MORE!
(Oh, and to any fictional women out there - don't hook up with Hereward or you will be a dead girlfriend - that is just the rules in blade and magic genre - I mean, there isn't a Mrs. Conan, know what I'm saying?)
PS: Check out Podcastle #92 and #186 for the audio versions of two of the three stories. That's why I went out bought the ebook. (Didn't include a link because they usually get stripped out.)
**spoiler alert** Okay let me tally this one up. Around the middle section I was getting impatient. There was a hunk that seemed pretty average or low**spoiler alert** Okay let me tally this one up. Around the middle section I was getting impatient. There was a hunk that seemed pretty average or lower - it picked up by the end. Unfortunately there is some YA that is just good writing and other YA which only exists to be YA, which is fine but boring.
Introduction - I don't really pay attention to introductions unless they are really stand out. Don't remember this one!
Things to Know About Being Dead by Genevieve Valentine Sorta suffers from the Y.A. voice thing. To me it doesn't sound like a teen, it sounds like a style. Lists are very popular in this type of story and this one has a lists inter cut throughout. Liked Grandma.
All Smiles by Steve Berman
Don't hitchhike kids! Actually this one has the makings of a kick-ass first chapter in a vampire hunter novel. Interested in the ranch, and how twisted the vamp hunter organization is.
Gap Year by Christopher Barzak
Mmmm more YA voice, but not as arch as Valentine. It just seems such a 'high-school concerns' story, but it serves me right for reading the book.
Bloody Sunrise by Neil Gaiman
Please don't confuse poetry with this stuff. I guess it is doggerel but I just don't understand what it is doing in this book.
grave/misbehave prowl/owls flying/dying
Flying by Delia Sherman
Ah the circus one with the sick circus girl! I really liked this one. Like that it is very nuts and bolts about circus life and the acts. Youtube is a very useful resource for ANYTHING. And yummm 'special high-engery tasty blood'!
Vampire Weather by Garth Nix
I find Nix's short stories very hit and miss. Stuff like 'Infestation' (another vampire story) I really, really loved, but then he'll do stuff that just doesn't seem like a whole story. Actually I'm still waiting for 'Infestation' to be turned into a novel but I still love the story. This tale of Amish folk who won't get their shots was fine, but incomplete for me. Which is a shame cause he's the reason I picked up the collection.
Late Bloomer by Suzy McKee Charnas
Oh yeah, the one with the antiques mall. Really liked the idea of the sterility and deadness of vampires that was explored in this one. Yes, you get to live forever, but you lose the creative spark that would make life worth living as anything other than a parasite - which I guess is the definition of a creature that lives off of human blood. Excellent.
The List of Definite Endings by Kaaron Warren
Yes, the ethical vampire. It was rather wispy for me. Looking back through the table of contents on my e-reader it took me a little bit to remember this one.
Best Friends Forever by Cecil Castellucci
Vampire goes to night school. I liked the relationship between the two girls. I like the non-action at the end. Solid story.
Sit the Dead by Jeffry Ford
The one in the church with the dead ?aunt? I believe. Liked how hapless Luke was and that he DIDN'T get better. I'm right there with you buddy, blanket over my head too.
Sunbleached by Nathan Ballingrud
Ah, more attractions to the vampire-undead-lifestyle. Haven't these kids read the stories that came before them in this collection? I guess not. Unfortunately I have so the dissatisfied teen toying with the idea of going vamp is starting to wear at this point. It might be the weakness inherent in the theme anthology or this might be a weaker story. Will give it a plus to be on the safe side.
Baby by Kathe Koja
Oh, the weird freaky baby/doll that likes to drink the girl's blood story. Oh, yeah the one with the smoker at the end. A freaky girl as well. Short but very odd.
In the Future When All's Well by Catherynne M. Valente
Now this is a story in YA voice that I liked. Mostly because it is a teen's reaction to all the anti-vampire propaganda. It captures the hysteria over drugs and teens sexuality all in the guise of a vampire plague. Not subtle and minimal character creation, just that YA voice.
Transition by Melissa Marr
More teens getting turned into vampires cause they are just so damn sick of their crappy teen lives and don't see a way out. Or at least I think that was this one, it could have been one of the others too.
History by Ellen Kushner
Goddamned vampires! If they were going to be useful for one thing it would be as an amazing resource for historians, but it turns out that their memory is about as good as mine. Don't ask me what I was two years ago, much less in the 80s. (Oh yeah, suffering through high school, so why am I reading this book???) Well this one doesn't happen in school or to a teen, this is actually a young adult, a historian who has a vampire boyfriend who is damned illusive - like all the really dangerous relationships in our lives. Sort of the anti-YA story of the bunch. It isn't dense or difficult, but it feels mature, well written and rises above the others.
The Perfect Dinner Party by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Like Garth Nix was the draw for me I'm sure that Holly Black was the name that enticed others to buy this collection. In my estimation they got a better deal. Yes, the structure is a list again - something that I'm tired of. But I like the siblings and how they found a structure to order their lives. I would totally slurp the soup and get eaten. Nothing like creepy vampire kids who are chronologically older - being frozen in time too young would suck as much as being 85 and ailing, well not as much, but pretty close.
Slice of Life by Luicius Shepard
My favourite story of the collection. I first heard it on Podcastle (believe it was Podcastle, that or Pseudopod) and really really enjoyed reading it again here. I love the humid, oversexed, southern (what ever the hell region that is down there, I'm in Canada so y'all are all south to me) of True Blood in its first two seasons and this story captures that for me. And I believe entirely in Louie and Sandrine. Perhaps the many personalities in the mirror at the end was a bit rote, but I really loved her. Now this all flies in the face of me bitching about discontented teens flirting with the vamp-lifestyle cause their lives suck so much, but perhaps it just goes to show that if you have chops as good as Mr. Shepard you can (perhaps) do what you like.
My Generation by Emma Bull
Another poem. Well, this one didn't try to rhyme, which I appreciate. It did reference The Who. Is Pete Townsend a vampire? Stay tuned.
Why Light? by Tanith Lee
I think this should have been longer! I really liked the - gasp - romance in this one. Tanith Lee is an awesome writer, really loved her Birthgrave books, the first one was published in 1975 and she seems to be going strong. It really felt like this story was cut short though. I was waiting for the reveal and then the novel that would result in it. If I had the rest this would be an A.
Excluding poem #2 this collection ended strong for its last four stories. But my overall impression is still a weak collection. Just out of curiosity (and obsessiveness) lets enter into the spirit of soul sucking school and add up and average the hopelessly arbitrary scores I've generated.
1 Things to Know About Being Dead by Genevieve - C+ 78 2 All Smiles by Steve Berman - B 85 3 Gap Year by Christopher Barzak - C 75 4 Bloody Sunrise by Neil Gaiman - D 65 5 Flying by Delia Sherman - A 95 6 Vampire Weather by Garth Nix - C+ 78 7 Late Bloomer by Suzy McKee Charnas - B+ 88 8 The List of Definite Endings by Kaaron Warren - C 75 9 Best Friends Forever by Cecil Castellucci - B 85 10 Sit the Dead by Jeffry Ford - C+ 78 11 Sunbleached by Nathan Ballingrud - C+ 78 12 Baby by Kathe Koja - B+ 88 13 In the Future When All's Well by C.M. Valente - B 85 14 Transition by Melissa Marr - C 75 15 History by Ellen Kushner - A 95 16 The Perfect Dinner Party by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black - B 85 17 Slice of Life by Luicius Shepard - A 95 18 My Generation by Emma Bull - C- 72 19 Why Light by Tanith Lee - B+ 88
--- Total 1563
Total divided by # of stories = percent = Overall Letter Grade
1563 / 19 = 82.263157 = B
And that would be what on Good Reads? Like four stars? 4/5 = .8 * 100 = 80%
Which goes to show that math and grading don't know nothing. There were only a few outstanding stories for me. The best of the lot (Slice of Life) I'd encountered already. There simply isn't enough for me to recommend the book as a whole to someone else. Screw high school. I give this puppy two stars. Class is out.
I wavered on how much I enjoyed this collection, but decided to fall on the upside. There are a few stories that dragged for me, some that were just oI wavered on how much I enjoyed this collection, but decided to fall on the upside. There are a few stories that dragged for me, some that were just okay. For me 'Wizards of Perfil', 'The Specialist's Hat', and 'Pretty Monsters' really stood out. 'Monster' made me squirm - which is a very good thing. I found the 'Surfer' a grind to get through. 'Magic for Beginners' felt cutesy and too referential. 'The Constable of Abal' and 'The Faery Handbag' were solid fairytale fare without falling into that modernizing crap. Link is always a fabulous writer, even when she is pissing me off.
Be warned that a lot of this stuff could have been easily published in top-flight literary magazines. Link isn't really interested in following genre lines with pat endings. These are the types of stories that either suddenly cut-off or trail off and the reader has to do the work to get closure or appreciate that there isn't an end. The finale of the title story is a education for all of you out there who aren't English majors. That I'm a former English major who likes the story is either a recommendation or a giant slam. So you are warned away or pointed to this excellent collection....more
Okay, first just ignore the wrapping this book comes in. I can accept 'Visionary in Residence' but the "13 NEW STORIES FROM THE LEATHER-JACKETED HIGHOkay, first just ignore the wrapping this book comes in. I can accept 'Visionary in Residence' but the "13 NEW STORIES FROM THE LEATHER-JACKETED HIGH DRUID OF CYBERPUNK" is just embarrassing. If I was Sterling I'd be burning my dorky leather jacket and hunting down whoever put that on the back of my book. Okay...
I quite liked this collection there are some pieces that are just... pieces and not really stories, a few exercises, but there is 'User-Centric' which is Sterling working at his best, and his collaborations with Di Filippo and Rucker are really good, though hew closely to his collaborators' styles. The last two stories are interesting in that they show Sterling's chops away from his trademark style, perhaps future possibilities?
The following are notes on the stories I made along the way.
""In Paradise", cell phone as universal translator, but other than that..."
"'Luciferase': Holy anthropomorphization Mr. Disney! Though I did learn much about bug sex. Walt did have a didactic point.."
"'Homo Sapiens Declared Extinct': Wow, crap articles even in 2380, cockroaches and news reporters..."
'Ivory Tower', sad to see that females aren't any more welcome in physics in the future, but still room for sexy camp followers! Sad.
'Message Found in a Bottle', yeah Nature didn't run it, will we take heed either? I don't know if this kind of cautionary piece is all that effective.
'The Growthing', a companion piece without the companion...
'User-Centric': Yes!!!! This is Sterling connecting the knowledge tech with the knowledge of spirit. At first my heart sank with his intro where he is all on about how designers are the coolest folk. The memos of the first half are very gee-whiz, we're Dr. Frankensteins happily grooving in our crack-unit building a better tomorrow. But THEN... the memos break down into private messages between the anthropologist and team coordinator and their failure to have a relationship and the inappropriateness of one and the way "I've never made a man happy in my whole life" disrupts this fantasy.
And the memos are torn (electronically) in two and the marketing story of Albert and Zelda, suddenly becomes real life. And wow, this is not a bright glossy marketing brochure life, this is fucked up life. BUT its not necessarily the technologies fault. Sterling says, yeah, tech is fine, but it is a tool, not the be-all-end-all panacea, or the evil soul sucker: its just the tool. Its the toolmakers and the users who are fucked. Fucked on a pretty fundamental, existential level. But hey, that's life. "What if the story was all about this, instead: What if you tried your level best to be a real-life, fully true human being, and it just plain couldn't work? It wasn't even possible. Period." That, in my experience, is timeless.
'Code',...very mainstream, the makings of a depressingly conventional rom-com, the guy reading off cards, using the manual, laughs ensue?
'The Scab's Progress', colab with my new fav DiFilippo, a nod to Bunyan, as two doofuses may grow up... Particularly like how Fearon & Malvern's bio-cool adventure is show as an adolescent comic book power fantasy....like much of the cyber-punk genre, and to be fair much sci-fi... and hey, I like some of it, but as I get to be an old fart a lot of it annoys me. One of them grows up, so maybe there is hope.
'Junk DNA', a colab with Rucker, two masters of the start-up IPO sci-fi story. Reminiscent of Rucker's "*-ware" series, not as wacky
'Necropolis of Thebes', who says the remorseless march of technology is new?
'The Blemmye's Stratagem', quite different from what I expect from Sterling, a historic-sf story, could be a big thumping novel!
'The Denial', ghost-story with a good twist, small village fable feel in Europe à la Isaac Bashevis Singer - cool!...more
A sex crazed newt-Queen Victoria, a bottled Hottentot twat, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson visiting limbo -- this is the funny twisted 19th centuryA sex crazed newt-Queen Victoria, a bottled Hottentot twat, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson visiting limbo -- this is the funny twisted 19th century sf world Paul Di Filippo has created in The Steampunk Trilogy. If you like your sf wacky, bawdy and crammed full of allusions that send you off in the wide world of lit then this is the writer for you.
While "Victoria" came off as an extended dirty joke and "Walt and Emily" had the poets quoting their poetry to each other, I thought the longest of the three novellas "Hottentot" fired on all cylinders - a satiric taking apart of 19th century racist science and the hapless Swiss born professor, all carried along on Di Filippo's mercilessly funny picaresque plot....more
It's a crazy mixed up, Panplasmodemonium world, ain't it? Well maybe.
Riofunk, a baker's dozen of sf stories, collectively takes you into a future worlIt's a crazy mixed up, Panplasmodemonium world, ain't it? Well maybe.
Riofunk, a baker's dozen of sf stories, collectively takes you into a future world transformed by a bio-technical revolution and slowly builds it up and up, with slang and tropes and splices and kibes, gets you deep inside, makes you a citizen and then... well, don't hold onto your passport too hard....more
As I languish in my fanboy garret waiting for Mr. Martin to finish his Song of Fire and Ice cycle. I can find comfort of a sort with this collection oAs I languish in my fanboy garret waiting for Mr. Martin to finish his Song of Fire and Ice cycle. I can find comfort of a sort with this collection of short stories from the seventies (published 1981), which shows that the master of the long form is equally capable of the tricky task of strapping down and compressing into the short story form. Interestingly enough for the most hard-bitten realist working in fantasy, the first story, "The Way of the Dragon and Cross", centers on the necessity of illusion, though with that typical Martin bluntness it is illusion in a universe without God, purpose or meaning. Faithless priests fit well in this world. In many of these stories illusion are quickly crushed by an indifferent reality. Which isn't to say they are depressing, there is a remarkable frankness and energy to all this squashing.
There is a scary vastness that Martin brings to these stories, the universe is big place – it's the feeling I've had looking down into the Grand Canyon (only a couple of seconds in the clock of world time), or perhaps standing on the edge of a tall building. It is a long way down, and there's no way in hell you are going to survive the fall. (No, Martin doesn't make me suicidal. He is very good at making me feel the fragility, the chanciness of life.)
At least on my first read, the title story "Sandkings" was the least chilling of the stories. I found the main character Simon Kress, a megalomaniac sadist, too much the archetypal villain to be that interested in his fate or to identify with him. That and the final image seemed just a little too cute by half. (Well, cute in the horrific-cute sense.)...more
Mary's Place, the setting of The Callahan Touch is really a closed bar, where only like minded people can go -- and that pretty much sums up how I feeMary's Place, the setting of The Callahan Touch is really a closed bar, where only like minded people can go -- and that pretty much sums up how I feel about the novel. It is filled with like minded people where the odd stranger comes in and is then converted into a regular. While the book has a ton of interesting ideas it feels strangely drained of dramatic tension for the most part. While the bar would be a great place to hang out in, and its inhabitants the most humane of folk, much like its author, I don't think I'll come back here as a reader....more