Finished the collection. Now, if I rated this by averaging my individual story ratings, I'd come just over 3*. But I also have to take into account thFinished the collection. Now, if I rated this by averaging my individual story ratings, I'd come just over 3*. But I also have to take into account the feel of the whole collection for me. And that makes me have to go with 2*. Maybe I expected too much, but I was looking for more here. Yep, I gave seven 4* ratings, and two 5* ratings, but I'm just not gushing here. Even after reading one of those, I just never had a feeling of 'can't wait to see what's next'. I don't think that was a lot of synergy in the collection as a whole.
I don't want to turn anyone away from enjoying the good stories, because of the bad. And - I feel like short stories even more than novels are definitely a matter of personal taste. Perhaps - I hope - the ones I didn't like will speak more strongly to someone else!
Introduction, by Neil Gaiman, **** Yep, I'm rating the intro. Weird. I just really liked Gaiman's assertion that what drew him in as a young reader, and is still important to him today is the story. Great prose is fabulous, but it needs to be used to tell a great story, otherwise it's like, oh I dunno - dressing up a pig in a tuxedo. (No offense to any pig lovers out there...) I agree with Gaiman. I love stories, now matter how they're told (fiction, nonfiction, movie, tv, songs, jokes). In editing this collection, Gaiman states that a good story should make you ask "and then what happened?" We'll see how this collection stacks up.
"Blood" by Roddy Doyle, *** A strange suburban take on a 'vampire' story. Not great, but intriguing enough.
"Fossil Figures" by Joyce Carol Oates, **** A tale of twin boys, from birth to death, told in a darkly fantastic mythical tone. I loved it.
"Wildfire in Manhattan" by Joanne Harris, ** Gods' modern earthbound incarnations in conflict. Meh.
"The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman, *** Leprechaun story? Somewhat intriguing. Who and what are good or evil, and can tempting fate really yield a reward?
"Unbelief" by Michael Marshall Smith, **** A hired assassin's Christmas tale. Short and not obvious, with a great ending.
"The Stars Are Falling" by Joe R. Lansdale, *** Does the true nature of man consist of physical domination in the forms of killing and sexual conquest?
"Juvenal Nyx" by Walter Mosley, *** A twist on the tradtional vampire story.
"The Knife" by Richard Adams, ** What should an uncle do?
"Weights and Measures" by Jodi Picoult, **** Describes what happens to a couple after their young daughter's death. Touching.
"Goblin Lake" by Michael Swanwick, *** Character must choose to be real or fictional. A little rambling, but makes you think.
The following stories have no notes beyond their ratings (I forgot to write a blurb down at the time I read them, just remember my "feel" for them enough to rate.
"Mallon the Guru" by Peter Straub, *** "Catch and Release" by Lawrence Block, *** "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" by Jeffrey Ford, * "Loser" by Chuck Palahniuk, ***
"Samantha's Diary" by Diana Wynne Jones, **** A future woman encounters an old Christmas Carol in a very real way.
"Land of the Lost" by Stewart O'Nan, *** Even though she wasn't asked, a grieving woman decides to help the police find a body.
"Leif in the Wind" by Gene Wolfe, ***** Team looking for habitable planets finds one. A great example (IMHO) of a good short story. Good choices of what details to use, and what explanations can be left out, resulting in good pacing and length. Plus a good story, with a satisfying ending.
"Unwell" by Carolyn Parkhurst, **** A reflection on the relationship between, and romances of, two "loving" sisters. Very well-written. I think maybe what takes it from 3 to 4 stars for me, though, is not the writing, but the audio performance I listened to. Even though the reader's voice is too young, her self-congratulatory tone is PERFECT.
"A Life in Fictions" by Kat Howard, ** I think this story in the same collection with 'Goblin Lake' is a bad choice, the themes being too similar. I'm not 100% sure my 'rating' for this one is as fair as it would be if this were the first one exploring this theme.
"Let the Past Begin" by Jonathan Carroll, *** Should a prospective father care whether the child is his, whether the mother is crazy? And is it? And is she? Good, but I felt very 'meh' about the ending.
"The Therapist" by Jeffery Deaver, **** Good plot, good pace. Good use of perspective switch from the crazy neme-preventing therapist to the prosecutor assigned to a murder case and back.
"Parallel Lines" by Tim Powers, ***** An excellent short short story. Another twin story. What happens when an elderly woman loses her twin sister?
"The Cult of the Nose" by Al Sarrantonio, ? Ummm... I have to refuse to rate this one now. I didn't make a note right away, and I don't remember my exact impressions very well today (a week or two later) and so now I can't, just can't, give a rating. I hate when that happens. However, I will say that I have NO INCLINATION to revisit it, which is not a positive sign. My gut is telling me something <3, >1, but I just won't be official about it.
"Human Intelligence" by Kurt Andersen, **** Very enjoyable first encounter story, featuring two likeable characters. Gave me warm fuzzy feeling inside. But don't worry, its upbeat, and I would NOT use the word mushy to describe it. :o)
"Stories" by Michael Moorcock, *** Cuttinly witty and literature-referential in an in your face way that I don't normally like, also very dark, but yet - I still 'liked' it in some weird twisted way. However, I don't think I would RECOMMEND it, I just found myself bizarrely gravitating to 3* instead of 2.
"The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon" by Elizabeth Hand, *** Can't distill down to a blurb, but to tweak your interest I'll just say the characters know each due to the Smithsonian Nat'l Air & Space Museum. So its gotta be somewhat cool, right?
"The Devil on the Staircase" by Joe Hill, ** A love, and an interesting meeting. I would say well crafted story, but didn't really do anything for me. ...more
A short collection of short stories, you'll fly through these. Usually I like to make a short comment about each story in a short story collection, buA short collection of short stories, you'll fly through these. Usually I like to make a short comment about each story in a short story collection, but my individual impressions were too undefined to express easily.
I would have read this anyway, as part of the 1001 BYMRBYD list, but if I had picked it out at the store randomly, I think I would have been disappointed at the very tangential way the linking thread (the 1995 Kobe earthquake) was incorporated in each of these 6 stories. That said, these stories felt much like my impressions of 2 of the 3 Murakami novels I've read so far: the characters and stories hooked me and were intriguing, and then towards the end either the plotline or the author's intended point didn't seem to pan out or reach through. But strangely with Murakami this feels as if the fault may rest with the reader more than the author. Definitely I still have a deep affection for Murakami's style, and I feel a connectedness to his work that is NOT put off by some of the weirdnesses (the magical realism, the odd portrayals of sex, etc. etc. - see other people's reviews for lots of mentions of weird repetitive treatments). I just wish at times for clear defined endings - think the movie "Crash".
I would like to say that I felt really moved by most of these stories even though I wasn't always sure why or in what way. I definitely WILL keep reading Murakami. Re-reads may be called for, especially after letting the works sit with me for a bit. ...more
Really good. But WARNING - it started off pretty slowly for me. Basically a man convicted in court of a crime awakens to find himself - where? The sloReally good. But WARNING - it started off pretty slowly for me. Basically a man convicted in court of a crime awakens to find himself - where? The slow start is due to some pretty long (for a short story) musings about the nature of consciousness, death, spiritual and physical being, yada yada yada. It just lasts too long and doesn't hook you well. The narrator doesn't even decide for too long whether he's alive or not. Once, however, he does decide he's alive and conscious, then the story is great. Description is vivid and thoughtful enough to put in the prisoner's shoes. It's very suspenseful right up to last sentence, and the abrupt finale doesn't take away anything from the pleasure. A fine work! Worth getting past the opening to experience....more
I enjoyed this much more than The Purloined Letter, which I finished right before this. This is more like what I expected based on my remembrance of rI enjoyed this much more than The Purloined Letter, which I finished right before this. This is more like what I expected based on my remembrance of reading The Gold Bug and The Tell-Tale Heart as a child. Good story, short and spooky. Poe's good descriptions and lyrical use of language put you in the right feel of time and place despite the older fashioned language. He does not belabor any points here either. It just flows. ...more
Not to malign a great early American author, but this just did not do anything for me. Very reminiscent of some Sherlock Holmes stories, this has farNot to malign a great early American author, but this just did not do anything for me. Very reminiscent of some Sherlock Holmes stories, this has far less action, and the bulk of the text seems to be either a tedious description of the detailed police search for the letter, and the narrator's friend's treatise on the deficiency of narrow-minded, in-the-box thinking - whose minds are narrow, whose aren't, and why. Not bad, just didn't leave me with any satisfaction....more
I was trying to keep up on this one with a short note and rating for each individual story, but I missed one of the stories. I was going to rate the wI was trying to keep up on this one with a short note and rating for each individual story, but I missed one of the stories. I was going to rate the whole based on an average individual rating - but here's the thing - these stories are too deep and sad to read all at once. So even though it is basically a book of four star stories, I'm giving it a three star rating....
UNACCUSTOMED EARTH (title story), **** ======= SPOILERS ========= Sad with nostalgia, easy to relate to for those of a certain age, who've experienced inevitable changes in the major relationships in their life. Beautifully told, satisfying ending.
Ruma's recently widowed father comes from Pennsylvania to visit with her and her toddler son Akash, in their new Seattle home, while her American husband Adam is away for the week on business. She has been considering inviting her father to live with them now, but isn't sure whether she wants to, since she hasn't historically been close to him. By week's end, she wants him to stay, and asks, but he declines. As he leaves, she finds a postcard he had intended to mail to his new lover, whose existence had been unknown and unsuspected by her, but which her young son had found and misplaced. Although father and daughter had not discussed these things openly, they had each spent the week ruminating on their families, (their parents, marriages, children), their connections or lack of them with friends and social groups, and their careers - and the changes time creates in all these areas - and how they feel about that. Initially dismayed at discovering the postcard, Ruma thinks of the way her father honored her deceased mother while he was visiting - by including a hydrangea, her mother's favorite flower, in the garden he planted for Ruma. She mails the postcard.
HELL-HEAVEN, **** ========================== Usha reminisces about her family's (especially her mother's) relationship with a fellow Bengali "uncle", who would later marry and many years after divorce, an American woman. Mostly focused on her adolescent experience, the story points out how our mutual understanding can increase as our own life experiences help us to relate better with our parent.
CHOICE OF ACCOMODATIONS, *** ========================== Melancholy, but the ending leans towards positive, this story takes us into the school age past of the protagonist, and back to the present. Delving into the black hole that characterizes a spouse's past prior to our meeting them, it illustrates how easy it is for partners to move away from each other during a day, but also how easy it might be (if both participate) to move back towards each other.
ONLY GOODNESS, **** ========================== What happens when a married woman's hopefully recently reformed alcoholic brother comes to visit her at the home where she lives with her husband and new baby? How much can a person take? It differs from person to person. There are consequences to both building and tearing down boundaries. Although tough and straightforward, the author's telling is also kind and human.
HEMA AND KAUSHIK, **** ========================== A funny, sad, brilliant story, the characters and situations are so perfectly brought to life, I felt them deeply. I'm not sure how I feel about the - definitely poignant - ending. Maybe its too impersonal a way to permanently break apart two individuals who made such a difference to each other. Or perhaps that's the point - the impersonal in the world often becomes personal. And sometimes we must detach and distance that which is too personal.
TOLD IN 3 PARTS (although therefore longer, does not seem that way - flows nicely): ONCE IN A LIFETIME: Family friends moving back to the US after a stint in India invade the home of a young girl (Hema). Told in a mixture of 1st and 2nd person, Hema narrates as if speaking to Kaushik, the then 16-year-old son of her parents' friends. YEAR'S END: Now young adult Kaushik is negotiating his widower father's remarriage, his feelings and his relationships with his old and new family, and also romance of course. He becomes a nomadic photojournalist. GOING ASHORE: Hema (now a published college professor) and Kaushik happen across each other in Rome. ...more
This particular collection/selection of Poe works may not be available PER SE, but Poe works are widely available in various formats and collections.This particular collection/selection of Poe works may not be available PER SE, but Poe works are widely available in various formats and collections. Adding to my TBR. Read a few stories and enjoyed, not sure why I haven't read more yet....more
It's been a long time. From memory, I wouldn't think of this as serious literature, but as pulp somewhat. However, I remember enjoying these stories,It's been a long time. From memory, I wouldn't think of this as serious literature, but as pulp somewhat. However, I remember enjoying these stories, and having the feeling of being uplifted by them, feeling good and happy after having read them, which is certainly a plus....more
Wow, realized my to-be-read shelf has a LOT of sci-fi, and a lot of short stories, and a lot of the short stories are sci-fi. Decided to work some in.Wow, realized my to-be-read shelf has a LOT of sci-fi, and a lot of short stories, and a lot of the short stories are sci-fi. Decided to work some in.... Will try to make a note about the individual stories as I go.
NOTE - SPOILERS!!!! (Although I intend to keep the De-tail level DOWN.)
2* The Nine Billion Names of God Very short, ok. Maybe because I've run across similar ideas in other sci-fi before? Super computer helps speed mankind's completion of its "ultimate purpose" (per some Tibetan monks), thus ending the universe.
3* Refugee Very short, enjoyable. Spaceship captain unwittingly helps British royalty escape the bonds of Earth and his subjects.
3* The Other Side of the Sky [Title Story] Consists of 6 short vignettes featuring the lives of those employed in the first generation of off-planet (mostly orbital) employment. Of course, turned out to be too optimistic as far as timing, (we aren't there yet) but still thoughtful. Light and heavy all at once - meaning, it's a fun read, but gives you some serious food for thought if you're up for it afterwards.
4* The Wall of Darkness Medium length, tells of a human on a distant planet (or in a distant universe?) whose search for knowledge throws him up against an ungraspable physics phenomenon. No, I guess that doesn't make it sound fabulous, but it is....
2* Security Check Very short. Set and prop designer for a SF tv series becomes a security threat - to SOMEone.
3* No Morning After Very short. The only earthling open to a telepathic warning from the stars to mankind is too drunk to take it seriously.
============= I developed a bit of guilt last night about NOT liking the 2* stories very much. Maybe because I feel that a good short story is SO difficult to achieve, the shorter the harder, and I recognize and agree that these are very well-crafted. If I had written them I'd be insufferably proud of it. But for whatever reason, those couple are just not hitting me right. Meaning, I guess, that if I never read them again, I wouldn't feel sorry about it, whereas usually I have some regret knowing I will likely not read something again rather than read something else for the first time. =============
2.5* Venture to the Moon (I know, I know, but I just kept waffling between 2 & 3) Another title that consists of a series of (again 6) vignettes. As with The Other Side of the Sky, the disconnect between the potential timing and course of space exploration and industry versus what has ended up happening so far is very noticeable, but it really does not take away from these. The technical challenges experienced by the astronauts due to the environmental differences from life on Earth are of course still in line with what we expect. Therefore if you can set yourself mentally "back in time" there is still relevance. They all have a humorous or ironic climax. Many deal directly or have a strong side themes regarding human nature. Again, old SF doesn't lose its relevance, and by most good old authors wasn't written in a "technological vacuum".
3* Publicity Campaign Very short. Earth encounters our first alien visitors. Must have been inspired by the War of the Worlds radio program incident.
3* All the Time in the World Thief is hired by a mysterious stranger, and then wants in on the action. Only to learn more than he wants to know.
3* Cosmic Casanova At a rare meeting with the descendant's of one of Earth's long ago settled colony planets, an expectant playboy gets more than he bargained for.
3* The Star Clergyman experiences doubts after his astronomical research reveals the truth of Bethlehem's star.
2* Out of the Sun Solar survey ship encounters something unexpected and poignant.
4* Songs of Distant Earth Not a looong short story, by any means, but at 25 pages by far the longest in this collection of pretty short entries. A chance meeting due to a colony ship's forced landing for repairs on a different long-ago founded colony planet births a bittersweet love affair and reflections on purpose and change and their importance to a human soul.
================================= Giving it 3 stars based on averaging my individual story impressions, but overall I wasn't as impressed as I like to be with short stories. Maybe Clarke needs a little more room to work with... I certainly appreciate him as a novelist....more