Rebecca's Reviews > Mean Streets

Mean Streets by Jim Butcher
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Jan 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories, fantasy, modern-earth
Read in January, 2009

Mean Streets is an anthology of four stories by four authors, all featuring urban fantasy and private eyes. For the record, I was familiar with two of the authors Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, but not familiar with Kat Richardson or Thomas E. Sniegoski. I'm going to review each of the stories separately.

The Warrior (Jim Butcher)
I enjoyed this story. It involved the Carpenter family, some of my favorite side characters of The Dresden Files. Plus, we got some good world-building surrounding Michael Carpenter and Father Anthony Forthill's more temporal connections. It also tied up a bit of the fallout from the last book, Small Favor. And it's a solid story, with good pacing and use of characters, though from my previous experience with Butcher's short stories, I was not surprised by this.

However, I think I would have preferred this not in an anthology, as it is a poor introduction to the series. It spoils Small Favor mercilessly and relies a lot on previous knowledge, I'd say. Overall, I think it's hard to write a story about Harry after over ten books, and then write something that would make book 1 Harry accessible.

The Difference a Day Makes by Simon Green
I've read about five of the Nightside books, so I'm familiar with John Taylor. Though this story had the opposite problem as the Dresden Files one -- John was John, but there wasn't that much to catch the interest of a fan. (Which goes to show that it's tricky to write for these things.) Part of that was that this felt like a simple case. John was hired to track down the missing memories of a normal who wandered into the Nightside. He ropes a friend of his, Dead Boy, into helping him out. John's power is that he can find anything, so it pretty much becomes 'I see the path, but there's dudes in the way'. I think the first five books of the series did a better job with limiting John's powers*, but there was no mention of those limits -- perhaps he overcame them in later books.

* In the first book, John mentions that someone targets him when he uses his ability, so he has to sneak peeks. Later books elaborate on what's going on with this. Here, there's no mention on the fact that John lights up like a Christmas tree (metaphorically speaking) when he uses his power, so he has to limit it.

The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog by Kat Richardson
Funny story. Right before starting this story, I was wondering why there were no female supernatural PIs, or that the urban fantasy with female leads tended to be romance-focused. (Exception: the Marla Mason books by T. A. Pratt.) Then I read this story, with Harper Blaine... all right, at first I thought Harper was a male name, and the first-person narrative didn't enlighten me. (Considering I got to 'Miss Blaine' at some point, I changed my mind -- it was after the scene with Harper's boyfriend, which made me all 'yay, queer character', though.)

Anyway, this was one of my favorites in the anthology (I know, it was four stories, right?) -- it was well plotted and worked as an introduction to Harper's world, while giving some clues to her about her powers. I didn't see the ending coming, and it was a good mystery in that respect.

My one dislike of the book is that the Spanish felt forced -- you occasionally got the 'I speak perfect English, but I'm going to use simple words in Spanish anyway' situation. There also were some moments of info dump about Día de los Muertos and Oxacalan (Oxacan?) attitudes towards death. Most of it seemed right to my limited memories from Spanish class, it just felt off, like the author needed to emphasize 'hey, we're in Mexico, where they speak Spanish!' occasionally.

Noah's Orphans by Thomas Sniegoski
So, we get a biblical situation with angel-in-disguise Remy Chandler out to investigate the murder of Noah, who had apparently survived. Not sure how I feel about this one. I have kind of a knee-jerk attitude towards Biblical literalism thanks to being a scientist*, so a fictional world where the Fall and Noah's Flood actually happened doesn't appeal to me. I did like that the angels were examined in more detail, as well as their relationships to humans. But, overall, this story fell a bit flat to me. I can't tell you if this is a 'I didn't like it' or 'it was a bad story' (or both), though.

* When people who believe X keep telling you that you're wrong and evil about something, and keep trying to undermine your work, it's not hard to develop a knee-jerk reaction to things, even in fiction.

Also? It might have been just me, but God came off as rather an ass in this, and He wasn't even on screen. Mind you, I think there's a lot of theology that either unintentionally makes God look like an ass to the unbelievers or has to work to reconcile some of the stuff in the Bible (and in life) to make God not look like an ass. (Usually, any argument about free will or why evil exists will fall into this category.)

Overall review is that I enjoyed 'The Warrior', but think it was meant for fans of the book series, and enjoyed 'The Third Death...' and mean to pick up that series. The other two I wasn't thrilled with.
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