**Correction**: this story is an extended version of a previous anthology release, and the new scenes added about a week to the timeline. I though I'd**Correction**: this story is an extended version of a previous anthology release, and the new scenes added about a week to the timeline. I though I'd caught all the time references, but in two instances the first release still says 'two days' when it actually means 'a week' ;)!
Thank you so much to everyone who pointed it out, and my deepest apologies for the oversight. The mistakes have been fixed and the new files should have been replaced on everyone's bookshelves :)!...more
I have to say, usually when I read anthologies I find that a very few stories are good while most of them are, let's face it, kinda lame. I'm not sureI have to say, usually when I read anthologies I find that a very few stories are good while most of them are, let's face it, kinda lame. I'm not sure why: maybe it's because short stories are actually much harder to write than what it looks like, maybe because anthologies are training ground for newbies such as myself. Whatever the reason, that was my expectation when I started reading this anthology... and what a wonderful surprise I had! The quality is much higher than most other anthologies I read. I fell completely in love with so many of the stories I couldn't even believe it. Since I really want to gush about my favourite pieces, I just had to write a review :).
So, in no particular order, my comments on my favourite stories:
Touched by the West Wind by Ellen Holiday. First of all, I LOVE the opening of the story: Ask me again why I love the sea. I'll give you a different answer each time. I have a million of them. And then, throughout the story, the theme is maintained with the narrator every now and then coming up with a new reason. And they're gorgeous reasons, never clichéd, always phrased in such a delightful way it makes me want to frame them. when I look over the railing, I see froth over dark beer, I can't even begin to say how much I love this image. And I love the character of Bren, the sea rat. I love the theme of the story, the thread of the stories read aloud in the dark nights below deck, and how Bren reacts. The atmosphere Ellen created is enchanting. Oh, and the dragons banter at the end, that's just priceless.
Ghost of Jupiter by Jana Denardo. Now, whenevr I see Jana's name, I already know I can expect an awesome story. She's always original and unexpected, and as a plus she sometimes inserts Italian elements in her stories (never in the clichéd way Italian references are usually used) and that makes me happy. So I loved Alessandro and Arianna Bellomi. Then I loved the whole concept of the chimerae, how they are created and used, and I loved what description was given of them. I was endlessly fascinated by Telek - love the detail of the blue hair coming from a specific race's genes, and the great detail of the texture of his penis. The sex scenes were utterly droolworthy, and dealt with Telek's issues with great realism. The blossoming of the feelings between Telek and Al was very well written and plausible (often in short stories it feels like the characters are getting together just because the author decide they have to.)
Objectivity by K.J. Johnson. I never read anything by K.J. before, but this short story made me decide I definitely want to. I don't even know where to start to say just how much I enjoyed it. First of all, the realistic setting, in a very harsh and compelling situation. I suck at reality, which is why my stories are usually set in imaginary settings, therefore I have endless admiration for authors who can tackle pressing contemporary issues and effectively portray them in their stories. I loved the dynamics between Matthew and Achmed, how they were conditioned and influenced by the dangerous, tense, unstable situation (I can all too easily imagine an instance in which a standard love story might have been pasted on the realistic setting without actually interacting with it: this is certainly not the case with this story!). I loved the detail of the picture of the food near the ammo. And the scenes with Achmed and Matthew in the city. I can't even say how much I love the last sentences that Achmed and Matthew exchange: no cheesy standard ending was possible, and it wouldn't have fit if K.J. had tried to shove it in. Somehow, those last words are perfect and heartbreaking and gorgeous at the same time. Really impressive.
Rough Trade by Cooper West. I just LOVE Carthage, her personality and what little history we have of her. I'd love to know exactly what happened to the Colonial crew on her, and why she decided to change sides. I also loved the bit about hobbies - when I read about Audacity knitting the hat, it was just too epic for words.
From a simmer to a burn by B. Snow. This is another author that I'd never read before, and that now I definitely want to get to know better. I love how the thread of Sule's anger is weaved into the story, and how the calm and emptiness that comes after terrifies him. I loved the fact that, for once, the main character isn't immediately likeable - he's flawed, the way he's behaving is wrong (and, deep down, he knows it), and yet it makes me love him even more: he's all the more strikingly human for it. A very complex, layered and realistic character - probably the most full-fleshed and realistic out of the whole anthology. I was very impressed by him. I also loved Olaf, who I found very sexy and attractive, his character a great contrast to Sule's, and the dynamics between him and Sule were just amazing. The ending was everything I was hoping it would be.
I, like apparently many others, got this book attracted by Anne Cain's art. I grew up on mangas so I have a thing for that kind**spoiler alert** Well!
I, like apparently many others, got this book attracted by Anne Cain's art. I grew up on mangas so I have a thing for that kind of aesthetic, and for long-haired men, AND for long-haired men with ears and tails. Half-foxes are one of my favourite characters and I use them often. So cover and preview pushed all my buttons.
While I see many complain of the fragmentation of the story, I liked that. I've always been a fan of intricate stories, and following the various characters wasn't a chore at all - I especially loved Liaison and the cats.
So, apparently the beginning of this book was custom tailored to push my aforementioned buttons, and I devoured it. Detective agency - check. Reckless hot headed ex street rat protagonist - check. Colder, more ferocious partner - check. Endless bickering and fights between the two - check. Evil super-enemies, guns and swords - check.
I devoured it as it build up all sorts of expectations for me. I loved Leander's and Epsilon's relationship, the tough fights. The scenes with Leander in agony in hospital did again press one of my secret, guilty manga-and-fanfiction days buttons! And every time Leander and Epsilon fought I looked more and more forward to the moment when the tension between them would finally, finally explode.
And here I have to split my review in two because, while I was satisfied by the development and resolution of the detective-narrative arc, I was disappointed in the relationship one.
So detective-wise, we have a nice build-up, an excellent dramatic moment when the tension peaks as everything seems lost and our heroes royally fucked, and then a satisfying climax with the last desperate fight against Monty and Liaison's intervention. I felt this completed Liaison's storyline beautifully, and as I said, I especially loved him, the ghost, the cats. It was a beautiful touch. After that, I knew that Sasha's storyline couldn't just have been dropped, and I wasn't disappointed.
I was, however, disappointed in how Leander was handled. It was quite disappointing that he didn't take part in the explosive climax of the Monty storyline and so I thought, excellent! Here's when he'll shine. He'll do something badass, be the one to save Alex and Epsilon, be the one to bring down Sasha with something heroic and borderline insane and be nagged to no end about it by Epsilon. He was the protagonist for me after all: he needed the moment of glory, the climax the others already had.
That, however, didn't happen. So it felt to me like Leander's character didn't complete his arc, lacking the peak of action.
The same, I'm afraid, for Leander & Epsilon's story. As I said, the build-up seemed custom tailored for me, and it built my expectations to no end. Growing tension, fights, drama, mortal danger - I was more and more excited waiting for that cathartic moment where it would all finally explode, waiting for the climax that would complete the storyline and give me satisfaction like the last fight had. Waiting for the moment when they'd be so tense and frayed with conflict that the fight would perhaps escalate to phisical fight and then hot, steamy, dramatic sex. God how I waited anxiously for that moment!
But that climax never came. It seemed like the beginning of the book built up and built up the tension, my expectations, and then instead of finally exploding... just suddenly melted down and evaporated in the soft, very much un-tense ending.
I know what the author did, choosing this melancholic, bittersweet ending. I recognise the structure and I can see the beauty of it: I've read it before after all. But, and this is personal taste of course, whenever an author made this choice, it did leave me slightly unsatisfied. But generally, when an author makes this choice, is because the climax has already happened. Build-up of tension, cathartic moment of explosion, and then the melancholic ending. That I can work with. But here, here there was something missing... that moment I was waiting for, the moment that sent me nearly skipping along pages because I was so eager to know how it would go. As I neared the end of the book, I grew confused, because it looked like in that particular story arc, the climax had simply been skipped. And that, perhaps because I'd grown so engrossed and passionate about the story, left me with a deep sense of having been robbed of the juiciest bit. I mean, a story needs a climax - I needed that climax, it's what the whole building of tension was supposed to be about, what the build-up was supposed to lead to.
Ahem. Did I get too engrossed in it again? I was loving the characters so much that, despite as I said seeing the appeal in the choice the author made, I felt like a kid who ate through his lunch growing more and more excited about dessert and then was told there was no more cake ç__ç. Which is sort of more upsetting because I got the juicy bits in Maddy & Alex's relationship, even more in Mercedes & Wolf's, but... but they had built nowhere near the same tension and excited expectations Leander & Epsilon had. That was the story I *really* cared about - the eager wait for their climax was what pushed me to literally devour the book.
So yes ;) Now I'll go back to imagining that climatic fight and subsequent hot sex. Thanks for writing this book, Angela, I loved its characters to pieces....more