What do you get when you take the high tech/low life settings of cyberpunk and sprinkle them with the magic and possibilities of fairy tales? Trolls under teleportation bridges, masquerades held in virtual reality, princely avatars, giants and dwarves alongside hackers and androids. From retellings of traditional tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, in which a young woman is tasked with writing code instead of spinning gold, to original tales like the changeling-inspired story of a formless machine intelligence that hijacks human bodies, these cyberpunk fairy tales form a unique collection that is sure to satisfy connoisseurs of both genres.
Original stories from Thomas Badlan, Suzanne Church, Beth Goder, Sarah Van Goethem, Nicola Kapron, V.F. LeSann, Angus McIntyre, Wendy Nikel, Ana Sun, Michael Teasdale, Alena Van Arendonk and Laura VanArendonk Baugh.
"Parrish’s latest anthology (after Dark Waters) brings together 12 entertaining stories that evoke classic fairy tales but dress them up in cyberpunk dazzle. In the strongest selections, the bones of the tales that inspired them show through... The charm of these stories lies in the way their authors work hard science incongruously into scenarios from high fantasy, making them appealing for fans of both types of writing. The resulting genre mash-ups offer plenty to enjoy." --Publisher's Weekly (https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781734054552)
Editor Rhonda Parrish scores high marks again with her latest collection. “Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls” is an entertaining variety of stories, combining fairy tales, magic, and cyberpunk. Sarah Van Goetham’s “A Beautiful Nightmare” is a fantastic start to this collection, a mysterious tale that blends a fairy tale atmosphere and the choices when confronted with a dystopian future. Ms. Parrish makes an excellent choice by following it with “Firewalls and Firewort,” a fantasy by Wendy Nikel that tells of a female on the lower rungs of the social ladders attempting to make a huge jump upwards.
Thomas Badlan’s “Cumulus” steps into the sci-fi world while “Drift-Skip” (Suzanne Church) caused me to dredge up forgotten memories of early Shadowrun tales. My favorite was “In the Belly of the Whale,” a tale of a power struggle with an end that caught me by surprise and forced my thoughts in a different direction.
I love when I find a book of short stories and finding something good in all of them. This collection is a lot of fun. Five stars.
Everyone should have a chance to live happily ever after.
In “***********SK.IN,” a young woman named Sam must write an impossible sequence of code for some old computer chips in order to avoid a jail sentence that will lead the authorities to discover a secret she must keep hidden at any cost. She was such an intelligent and resourceful character. As soon as I met her, I earnestly began hoping she’d find a way to slip out of the clutches of those who wished to harm her. This feeling only intensified as she continued to face more obstacles in her path. I couldn’t stop reading until I’d learned her fate!
Nara discovered a tiny seedling in a neighborhood where no plants had grown in a few generations in “Neon Green in D Minor.” I was mesmerized by the dirty place she’d grown up in and how the seedling had managed to sprout when so little sunlight fell on anyone or anything who lived there. The only thing better than that scene was figuring out which fairy tale this was based on. The author’s outdid themselves with their creativity.
Giants were a slowly dying breed in “Firewalls and Firewort,” but Mave wasn’t about to stop searching for a way to save her people. I admired her courage, especially given the cruelty and bigotry that was so often a part of her interactions with humans. Every story in this book was excellent, but this was the one I’d be most excited to revisit in the form of a sequel if the author ever decides to write one. While I was satisfied with how everything ended up, there were so many portions of giant society that could be explored in greater detail in the future.
This is the final instalment of a series of anthologies. It can be read as a standalone work.
Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales was utterly perfect.
An anthology with a kickass title and cover art about fairy tales but with a cyberpunk reimagining. Normally when something says fairy tales id just go “okay” and then pass it up but that title though. Goddamn. The intro explains that this is the third in a series named Punked Up Fairy Tales with the other two titles, Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline and Clockwork, Curses, and Coal. These are fun and I’m surprised I’m just now coming across these.
My top three:
A Beautiful Nightmare by Sarah Van Goethem
The first story and it’s a cyberpunked version of Beauty and the Beast. It’s awesome. A group a people with no memories of their past, stuck on an island in a super cool castle mansion, and everyone has a personality based nickname. Turns out “Beauty” is the creator of this place and it was invented as vr therapy for people with mental illness. Goethem is a master storyteller and I am beyond impressed with what she did here.
Stiltskin by Michael Teasdale
An ex pleasure bot is seeking code from a dwarf to keep her significant other from reaching her expiration date. In true Stiltskin fashion, this dwarf wants to make a deal but it will be tricky. He needs code from her to revive his own pleasure bot. Teasdale does an excellent job making the background a grimy technological setting and keeps you engaged with the plot twists.
In the Belly of the Whale by Angus McIntyre
In this cypberpunk version of Snow White, two hackers on an old mining platform play tug of war with an A.I. named Mirror. Both want the other to go away. You get old robots for dwarves and a few other spins of the classic story.
This is a great anthology for those looking for something a bit different.
A decent collection of shorts by various authors, I thought the Alice in Wonderland rogue AI story was above average and there was at least one Asian folk tale with most stories avoiding Cinderella and the other overused stories.
Lovely collection of stories. I think my favorite was the Rabbit in the Moon. So sweet. This whole collection is diverse and interesting. I enjoyed all the stories, each was a different take on fantasy and fairy tale styles. It was a very good book.
I am quickly learning that if I want sexy steampunk and creative cyberpunk anthologies, I should definitely pick up anything from Ms. Parrish. This anthology is another winner for me. It is rare that I enjoy every single story in an anthology. I enjoyed every single one written, even if they were bittersweet endings.
To read the rest of my review, click on the image below to see it on my website.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I skipped over the editor's foreword because I don't want to know what an editor's intent was. I want to be able to discern it directly from the work. However, afterwards I returned to Ms. Parrish's introduction and, I have to say, she accomplished exactly what she set out to do. Among the dystopian grit and despair, notes of hope float to the top like perfect, little gems. As with all anthologies, I have favorites and not-so-favorites, but overall, this was a very satisfying read.
A BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE by Sarah Van Goethem is a hauntingly lovely tale that braids together threads of love, ignorance and hope, if one is strong enough to fight for the future.
FIREWALLS AND FIREWORT by Wendy Nikel contains some excellent world-building within a story about courage and redemption. I hope the author considers expanding this piece into a novel. There is enough intriguing detail and characterization to make me want to read more.
THE RABBIT IN THE MOON by Ana Sun took one of my favorite childhood fairytales and draped it with a delicate overlay of techno-culture. It's well done, but my fondness for the original prevented me from truly appreciating its adaptation to cyberpunk.
STILTSKIN by Michael Teasdale is an amalgam of Bladerunner's sentient androids seeking to alter their expiration dates and the classic fairy story, artfully blended.
THREE by Nicola Kapron gives us the troll under the bridge. It's hard to tell if nature is reasserting itself, or if magic doesn't change while the world does, but the overlap of nature and civilization moves the story in interesting directions.
CUMULUS by Thomas Badlan unites changelings, hacking and technological ascendancy at the cost...or benefit...of humanity. A fascinating situation that makes the reader think.
DRIFT-SKIP by Suzanne Church ranks as one of my favorites. It's the perfect mix of grit and glamour with a plot twist halfway through that really did catch me by surprise. Excellent work.
MAKE YOUR OWN HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Beth Goder is a digital, dangerous version of Cinderella who stays too long at the ball. She does manage to find her prince in a hopefully ever after ending.
***********SK.IN by Alena Van Arendonk is the second offering based on Rumpelstiltskin. You know how the story will progress, but the fun is in the cyber counterparts of the traditional tale.
C4T & M0U5E by V.F. LeSann unfortunately hit one of my personal SMH buttons. It was a good story until it strained to be cool and woke. A character whose identity/pronouns shift from female to "it" to "them" to "girl" and finally to "she" is just trying too hard. It was an attempt to illustrate Then vs. Now, but there are far better ways to do it. I hate it when writers try to satisfy some outside societal influence when it sidetracks their own inner trajectory. The story gets lost.
IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE by Angus McIntyre is another favorite, taking the Snow White story to a level of perfection that made it truly original and beautifully crafted. The entire mechanical, digital world was powerfully effective.
NEON GREEN IN D MINOR by Laura VanArendonk Baugh is well-placed as the final story. It's a calling-to-arms of those who stand a chance to work their way to a better world. I didn't really detect a fairy tale template under this one. But it is redolent with hope.
With some nods to Bladerunner, Ender's Game, and all the traditional tales you grew up with, all in all, an enjoyable gathering of stories that leave a pleasant aftertaste, rather than a forlorn one. Well worth reading.
- A Beautiful Nightmare by Sarah Van Goethem I love this futuristic speculative fiction taken on Sleeping Beauty! It's a peek at where the future and technology could take us with the pandemic and lock downs and the rapid technological advances made because of them. 4.5 stars
- Firewalls and Firewort by Wendy Nikel An interesting premise but the ending left me unsatisfied. 3 stars
- The Rabbit in the Moon by Ana Sun This is a great reimagining of the folktale of the legend of the moon rabbit. I'd really love to see a longer book about the Chronicler and the things they see and do. I looked the author up hoping to find more by her but was sad to not find anything. I really hope she'll continue to write more. 5 stars
- Stiltskin by Michael Teasdale A compelling Sapphic cyberpunk Rumpelstiltskin retelling. Very gritty and dark. 10/10 would read more about this gay self-aware android con artist. 4 stars
- Three by Nicola Kapron Really interesting interpretation of the three billie goats gruff. Made me scratch my head a bit and go "well huh" re: the Troll character. Loved that this one features a transwoman MC, but I'd like her to have a whole book please. 5 stars
- Cumulus by Thomas Badlan Interesting cyberpunk take on the changeling lore. 3 stars
- Drift-Skip by Suzanne Church Almost DNFd this one, spent most of the story going WTF? 1 star
- Make Your Own Happily Ever After by Beth Goeder This. Story. Is. SO. CUTE!! I cannot even. I Absolutely adored this post-punk Cyber Cinderella retelling. The writing style is a tad simplistic at times, but I don't even care. I want MORE. 4.5 stars
- **********SK.IN by Alena Van Arendonk An interesting futuristic, techy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. The MySoft company reminded me a lot of Apple... *looks meaningfully at old iPod which is no longer supported for OS updates and thus isn't compatible with iTunes anymore* 4 stars
- C4T & MOU5E by V.F. Leeann As is to be somewhat expected of a cyberpunk Alice in Wonderland retelling, I have NO IDEA what just happened but I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading... whatever it is I just read. 4.5 stars
- In the Belly of the Whale by Angus McIntyre For some reason I thought this was going to be a Pinocchio retelling, but instead it's a weird Snow White one. Interesting take from the "mirror's" POV (sort of...) 3 stars
- Neon Green in D Minor by Laura VanArendonk Baugh I didn't realize this was based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin until the little blurb after the story, but it's darkly compelling. 4 stars
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I bet you have already guessed that this is that review.
Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls is an anthology of stories that mix fairy tales, folklore, and cyberpunk. I like the idea a lot. The concept is fun and there are lots of possibilities.
Anthologies aren't my favorite thing. They are almost always hit and miss and this is no exception. There were some really fun and interesting stories. I especially liked the take on Rumpelstilskin. And the Cinderella take was really great. Some of the others were misses. But, all in all, this was a solid anthology and if every story didn't catch my interest, enough did that I am still thinking about the concept.
The book is an anthology of fairy tale retellings. Some of them had this definite steampunk feeling while others were well-crafted dystopias. I believe that all lovers of the genre may find a short story that called to them. I enjoyed this anthology very much even though I couldn't sometimes place what fairy tale was adapted. I recommend this book as it will also serve as a good introduction to interesting authors people may not have known before.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Thanks Netgalley and publisher for the opportunity to read and review. It's quite an extraordinary book. I never imagined that you can combine cyberpunk with magic and fantasy and for this combination to be successful, but it was. Very intriguing mixure. I only wish the entire book was one original novel, not just retelling of old tales or basically few separate stories. There's a potential in the entire setting, so I hope soon I'll have the opportunity to read a full novel with characters that will be explored in a deeper level!
I love anthologies for the opportunity to explore a multitude of authors and universes. This collection does both in grade fashion. The collection includes an even dozen stories all with intriguing mashups of technology and magic. The stories are well written and easy to read with a variety of characters, settings and plots. And all of them are a lot of fun and I did discover some new authors that I look forward to exploring. An overall success in my book (pun intended).
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout for review purposes.
I received this book from the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing in exchange for my honest opinion.
This book is a collection of fairy tales retold in a cyberpunk setting and fashion. It's really interesting to read all the takes from authors all over the place. The first one was really good, but really short. I loved this.
I wasn't sure what to expect as it isn't a genre I've ever read before but I was immediately pulled into the first story, and continued to be engaged with each of the short stories. I loved the traditional fairy tales paired with imaginations of what a future world could be like. It was fun and fascinating and got me thinking and imagining too.
I don’t normally read short story anthologies but the premise sufficiently interested me to add this one to my list. The stories are excellent and I definitely found myself wishing there was more to the story for each of them. I like that the editor had a Pied Piper story at the end, one that ended the anthology with a feeling of hope for the future.
If you are a fan of retellings and sci-fi and/or cyberpunk, this book is a good one for you.
When I first picked up the book, I was expecting strictly retellings. And there are some great ones in there including but not limited to Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Rumplestiltskin. But there are other stories that aren’t based on any particular fairy tale, but more the “ideas” such as the troll under the bridge. And there were still other stories that had more of a fairy tale vibe and the morals of that you can find a better place in the world and what not.
Personally, I preferred the stories that were truer to retellings. Even if they looked different, you still knew them. And I personally enjoy seeing how people can change, adapt, and bastardize something yet keep it completely familiar. The ones not based on any tales that I could recognize just seemed… to miss the mark a bit for me. They were mostly what felt like stories designed to inspire and show that you can leave bad situations with enough will, skill, and luck. I’m not saying these stories were bad, but I do think they would’ve been better off in an anthology that’s not supposed to be fairy tale retellings.
I did find it interesting that most of the stories focused on dystopian worlds. I personally don’t read much cyberpunk, but what I have read has been mostly dystopian, so I’m always interested in finding one that isn’t. Still, the worlds were well molded and while I sometimes wish a little more world building had been done, I fully recognize the constraints of short stories.
Though not in all the stories, I did love the diversity some of them had. I won’t say which to prevent spoilers but there was a sapphic romance and a trans woman. And a few stories were even non-Caucasian/Christian based retellings. I thought they were all excellent additions to the retellings. Particularly, the story with the trans woman was extremely well done and anyone who has, is, wants to, or is considering transitioning should read this story.