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Tender

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  238 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The first collection of short fiction from a rising star whose stories have been anthologized in the first two volumes of the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series and nominated for many awards. Some of Samatar’s weird and tender fabulations spring from her life and her literary studies; some spring from the world, some from the void.
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Small Beer Press (first published April 11th 2017)
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4.13  · 
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 ·  238 ratings  ·  58 reviews


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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a beautiful, original, often surprising, and yes, tender, short story collection by a fantastic author. Samatar’s novels are lovely, but I think she may excel even more in the short story format, which combines her exquisite writing with compressed plots that necessarily move briskly. And her wide command of genres is impressive: fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, fairy tales, contemporary, young adult. Most of the stories are sci-fi and fantasy, and while I love fantasy I typ ...more
Rachel León
This collection is quite stellar. I'm still wrapping my head around the brilliance of Sofia Samatar. I wrote a review for Chicago Review of Books and you can check it out here:

https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/05/...
Leseparatist
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, owned
A collection of prose, ranging from good to excellent. I started it off a while ago, by reading the novella (?), Fallow, whose power and beauty are still with me, and then spent much of January reading one story a day, usually in the evening. The beauty of language, the melancholy of style, the voices and concepts will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it.
Allison
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't even know what to say about Samatar anymore....everything I read from her is immersive and breathtaking. I'd read many of these stories before in various spec fic publications but a good portion was new and wholly amazing.

One of my favorites (and it was a favorite of mine when it was originally published) is her "Ogres of East Africa".

Longer review to come.

Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!
Ilana C. Myer
I reviewed Tender for the Los Angeles Review of Books: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/i...
Nicole Beaudry
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with any collection of short stories, the majority of these are good, a couple are lacklustre, and a few are spectacular. Samatar draws out, with tenderness, the aches and injuries and wounds of humanity and humans, these being two different things that intersect. Fantastic stories, often science fiction or fantasy with fairy tale elements, that express different pains in exquisite ways, always with a delicate prose and unique voice. I really enjoyed these, and look forward to reading more bu ...more
Kiki
"You called me an ant" she'll say.

And he, sitting up, framed by wild white hair, "Why, Sally, what's come over you, are you mad?"

"I'm not an ant."


The characters in Sofia Samatar's Tender seek to make sense of the world, of themselves, and their place in it. Samatar's inventiveness is shown in the variety of forms this quest takes, almost all of them explicitly related to the act of writing. The love letters, research essays, encyclopaedia draft entries, a dream journal--these are the tools for
...more
Beth Cato
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

I had read one of Samatar's stories before, her acclaimed "Selkie Stories are for Losers," and was happy to read it again as the opener to this collection. Samatar's stories are eloquent and thought-provoking. She doesn't use formulaic plots like most short stories writers; her narrative tends to glide along, relying on inference rather than blunt statements. She often draws on themes of isolation. I found some of the works a
...more
Charlotte
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best book of 2017.

Each story contains a whole world. Each object, each tiny thing, has so much metaphorical or symbolic weight, and is also itself. People who love generously, cruelties that resonate & expose entire structures and ways of being that depend upon them. Potatoes, lassi, American soda, cigarettes made from scraps of written records. Stories made up of letters and other documents that question that very materiality, the ethics of writing and recording and excavating. Excavat
...more
Erin
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story "Fallow" was incredible and worth reading this whole collection for.
gwayle
I remember loving this creative, consistently moving, and varied short story collection. Sofia Samatar is in a class of her own, and since I don't read short stories that often my analogs are limited, but she reminded me of the best parts of George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Karen Russell St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
Andrea Blythe
Sofia Samatar's collection of stories reveals human (or not-so-human) tenderness as the aching of a wound, or the gentle kindness from another, or the vulnerability of the young. It's a stunning collection of powerful stories with beautiful writing and many with creative ways of expressing the tale (essay format, journal entries, letters) that provides a unique depth and texture.

I love "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," a story in which a young woman comes to terms with her anger at the loss of he
...more
Nathaniel
“...Egypt conquered Kush, you see, and the artists of Kush adopted Egypt’s painting style. And generations later, these Kushite artists used these images, images of their own people, to depict their enemies! Isn’t that odd? As if the images have no character at all. As if they are vessels that can be filled again and again. Simply the enemy. And what is required of the enemy’s image? Only that the figures are identical, and that they are many.” — from “Those”

I just did a thing that involved sayi
...more
jess b
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
God, this collection is so good. Not every single story landed for me, but the vast majority were remarkable. Several of the stories were re-reads, and they were all even better the second time around. "Fallow", the novella near the end of the collection, made me cry inconsolably. Samatar is a genius, and I really feel like she ought to be much more widely read and acclaimed.
Geoff
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting worldbuilding that shows up as mysterious subtext readers slowly discover (and why should the characters discuss up front the detsils of their worlds? they're only strange and miraculous to us - to them it's just their normal existence.). The punch of these stories comes from the ways the speculative world building affects people's lives. like all of my favorite SF, these stories are concerned with people - why they love, hurt, break, and endure.
Girl
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I had some quibbles with the stories in the first part (Tender Bodies), but the second part (Tender Landscapes) more than made up for it. Gorgeously evocative writing.
Hannah
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, searing tales that stare unerringly at the wounds (inside and out) that alienation and otherness open up.
fortnightlysara
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Astounding.
Leah
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Often, collections by a single author are a mixed bag; sometimes they're great, more often they're meh. How I sort the greats from the mehs is if, when I look at the table of contents, I can recall a story's details and how that story made me feel and think, and there are more "Ah! Yes, that one; I loved that one!" than "I don't remember this story at all," then I know the collection as a whole was successful for me as a reader. The thing is, with this collection, even the stories I was meh abou ...more
Nicole
Sep 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
A rare “Nopes”’for me. I think this may be one of the first books that I straight up closed. I felt no guilt about not devoting any more time to reading. I liked the first short story but it all went down from there. These seem like random writing prompt ideas and not actual stories. The narration style is too haphazard and was not enjoyable.
vani
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
how did i accidentally mark two stars for this book? i meant to say, at least six! stunning world building, and a story cycle structure that unfolds beautifully
Morgan Dhu
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sofia Samatar’s collection of short fiction, Tender, is a feast. Some of these stories I had read before, but most were new to me. The interesting thing is that, in rereading the stories I had read before, such as “The Ogres of Africa,” I found new insights. These are stories that contain multitudes. They are about monsters and outsiders (which are often the same thing, at least in the minds of those who define what is inside and normal). Or about people who have placed themselves outside, beyon ...more
Donna Miele
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-2018
When I start reading a Samatar story I'm never quite sure where I am or why I'm there... And then something turns, or a heart opens, or a scar (more often something worse, like a cyborg implant or a synthetic sky) is revealed, and nothing matters more than being right there, right now, until I get to the last page.

Plus there are often moments like the one below, appealing especially to acolytes of the written word. I'm smitten, give me up for lost.

"This is not the first time I have written some
...more
Lorelei
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sofia Samatar's writing changes the way my thoughts sound. For a little while after I finish reading one of her stories, the rhythm and lyricism stay with me. I remember something from my past, and try to connect it to a larger narrative. I pay a little more attention to the world around me, and think of how it might be described in one of Samatar's stories. They make me want to write.

Part of the reason why, I think, is because this collection is very self-conscious about the act of storytellin
...more
Wyatt
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tender is a marvelous collection of short stories. I read them slowly, one at a time over many weeks, to better savor Samatar's beautiful language and wide-ranging imagination. I loved her first novel, A Stranger in Olondria, but I think I love this collection even more. While all of these stories are wonderful, my favorites are "Selkie Stories Are for Losers," "Walkdog," "Honey Bear," "How to Get Back to the Forest," "An Account of the Land of Witches" (which is simply one of the best short sto ...more
Justme
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With a collection of short stories, I usually notate my favorite stories. With this collection, when I sat to note which were my favorite, I wrote down all but three.

These stories are amazing! Fallow especially. I could see Fallow, I was in Fallow. But then I wondered, is it because it's one of the more recent stories? Oh yah, "Meet me in Iram." I want to go searching with the author/narrator for Iram. I want to search for my Iram.

And then there is Honey Bear, with its surprise-ish ending. The
...more
Julie (3x5Books)
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are stories in this collection that will stay with me a long time like "Ogres of East Africa," "Olimpia's Ghost," "Request for an Extension on the Clarity," and "An Account of the Land of Witches." Each story is imaginative and interesting, even though I worry I don't necessarily "get" the endings of all of them. These four in particular hit upon the theme of writing and communication.

Lovely prose. One of my favorite bits (from "Fallow"): "But I have always been a stranger in this place. A
...more
W.L. Bolm
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had already read many of Sofia's stories; I think the most surprising thing for me was how much I loved the stories I'd never heard of before reading this book. Sofia Samatar is one of the best short story writers of our time, and as a whole, this was one of the best anthologies I've read this year.

I've long admired her fantasy work, but her sci fi stories in this collection were amazing. I was reminded of Octavia Butler's Parable series and Cory Doctorow's Walkaway. There is a real depth to
...more
Inda
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One thing I have to admit here is that I'm a bit biased when it comes to Sofia's work because she is one of the writers I want to most be like. And this collection of short stories reminds me why. I've been more familiar with her novels, and it was refreshing to see she puts as much emotional impact and storyline into her short works. I'll do more of a review on my blog later, but Levar Burton can definitely expect some recommendations with this collection.
Jocelyn
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I sometimes find Samatar's writing style too winding to follow. There were a number of stories in here that I didn't 'get;' most of the ones I enjoyed were set in the near future and so I had a frame of reference for understanding them all ready to go.

My favorites were:
How I Met the Ghoul
Walkdog
Honey Bear
How to Get Back to the Forest
Tender
Request for an Extension on the Clarity
The Closest Thing to Animals
The Red Thread
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Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar.
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“People talked about loneliness as if it were something alive and it could get you. But loneliness is something dead, it's deadness. Lonely people are slowly dying people.” 2 likes
“There is enough cruelty in the world," she told me softly, "to justify all the music ever made.” 1 likes
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