Andreas's Reviews > Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women by George R.R. Martin
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2014, reviewed
Read 2 times. Last read January 2, 2014 to January 9, 2014.

Cross-genre (fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, historical fiction etc.) anthology featuring stories about woman. There are lots of excerpts and reviews to be found at tor.com

The broad range of genres working on the same theme is really good and fascinating. Some stories that would have been far worse when standing for its own work very fine here. On the other hand, GRRM's contribution is displaced and probably only for marketing purposes included, leading to a hype that the anthology cannot stand up to.
There are a couple of very good stories to be found and some positive surprises like Sam Sykes story. Most of the authors were new for me and now I want to read more from them. Other stories I will forget about which is the normal way for an anthology.

One general problem I have with the anthology are the editor's introduction to each story and author: They are just a dumb list of works the author has written and where he lives. In most cases, I'd rather read the wikipedia article and skip the introduction. If you want to read an example of good introductions, go for Harlan Ellison!

Overall it deserves 3.5 stars, rounded up - it is not the average 3 stars of the single ratings, because an anthology is more than the sum of its stories.

2.5 * for fantasy "Some Desperado" from Joe Abercrombie: introduces Sly South from Red Country, set in the First Law world. Only action, no brain food, a bit weak for a short story of 17 pages. This very short story introduces Shy from Red Country who is really a dangerous woman. You don't need to know anything from Abercrombie's other works to enjoy the story. Just don't expect too much from it - there is no extraposition, no real background story, no brain food. Just plain action and you get a feeling for that bad girl.
Read it for free at Tor.com or as the first story of the anthology Dangerous Women.

3.5 * for crime fiction "My Heart is Either Broken" from Megan Abbott. A weird crime fiction set in contemporary U.S., told from the point of view of a man whose daughter disappeared while his wife was watching. Suspicions, police and boulevard press poking around, weirdness starts but ends before it is getting horrific. Excellent prose and story arc, in fact much better than Abercrombie's. I've never read anything by Abbott and given the genre she seems to publish in, I won't pick up anything by her. But this particular story balanced out and contrasted the first one very well, so I'm glad to have read it. Quality would be 4 stars, it is just the theme that I don't like.

2 * for historical fiction "Nora’s Song" by Cecelia Holland. Eleanor of Aquitaine's 7 year old daughter observes a catalystic moment in history which sets a long list of major historical events in motion: In 1169, king Henry II of England and Ludwig VII of France met to settle several issues - one of them was about Samuel Becket, another was the betrothal of Eleanor's 12 years old son Richard the Lionheart to Ludwig's daughter Alys and swore oath of fealty concerning Aquitaine to Ludwig. She sees how politics develop between her parents and not everything is going right. The prose was plain and simple, there were too many complicate characters involved to give them their right place. In addition, historical fiction should try to stay correct about historical facts - there was no Germany but the Holy Roman Empire in 1169 and Henry the Lion was Duke of Saxony and Bavaria and not of Germany. Some other glitches concerning names were not that important. In general, I liked this different perspective but sometimes it just didn't feel right and kind of a cut off of a larger work. At least, you should have a good basic understanding about mediaeval France and England.

4 * for SF short story "The Hands That Are Not There" by Melinda Snodgrass. So far, this was the best story in the anthology. Prejudice and sexual relationship between races and politics are embedded within a frame story for different perspectives of this SF story: An aristocrat develops romantic feelings for a half-breed stripper (view spoiler).
It feels complete and not as ripped out of context like some of the other stories. Pacing, characterization, setting are all excellent. And the outcome made me think - a task that short stories should achieve at the very least. I haven't read anything by the author and I wasn't impartial at all when she was introduced as a Star Trek and Wild Cards author. But here she showed that she can swing a nice pen.

4 * for the Urban fantasy novella "Bombshell" by Jim Butcher set in the Dresden Files universe. It doesn't involve Harry Dresden but his female apprentice mage Molly Carpenter trying to find and rescue some vampire.

I haven't read anything from the Dresden files. But I read the first two novels from the Codex Alera series - and lemmed it (read my review if you want to know why). That's why I was a bit hesitant to go for this one knowing that lots of people like the Dresden files. And it was worth the investment:

I had a blast with this story, I really liked it!
It's like popcorn kino, you don't have to think much but enjoy the firework. Butcher managed to build up tension and speed, and I liked the characters. The zoo of Edda's alba (the swartelves), Irish mythology with Fomorians and Sidhe and the usual werewolves etc. was nice.
In contrast to Abercrombie's story, this novella felt more closed in itself instead of a cutout from a larger novel. In fact, I was able to read it as a standalone and didn't need anything to know about the Dresden series.
Just don't expect too much thematic depth but lots of fun and humor.


4 * for the historical fiction "Raisa Stepanova" by Carrie Vaughn. The author is probably better known for her Urban Fantasy series featuring Kitty Norville and it is interesting how she will proof in a foreign genre. Shooting five enemy aircrafts makes a fighting ace. There have been only two female aces in history - Lydia Litvyak being the first and the protagonist of this short story trying to be the second. Both fight in WWII for a female only USSR regiment. Raisa worries for her brother and for her family - we see how deeply in her letters. A conflict between the state and her brother adds depth to intense fighting scenes in the air where she has to prove double as a woman. Setting and characters in this historical fiction are great and fast pacing action after a longer exposition doesn't let you wish for more.

4 * for weird fiction "Wrestling Jesus" by Joe R. Lansdale. Nothing religious here! Wrestling stories have a grand tradition in fiction and movies. This is a coming-of-age story like "Karate Kid" but with an emphasis on the old geezer. Wrestling here isn't the soft-porn version that is shown everywhere but a Fight Club version. It is told in a very lively way with perfectly adequate foul language. I just loved the old guys! The dangerous woman isn't the main protagonist, this time - she's a femme fatale in the background wielding voodoo forces to bind the two old guys to her will, fighting every 5 years for her love. She is a catalyst for the lust of the males. And the final fight was epic!

5 * for "Neighbors" by Robin Hobb aka Megan Lindholm. As a fan of her work, I'm somewhat bias and I'd have loved to read something from the Farseer's world. We got a weird story, instead. Alzheimer, worried children, a weird mist with an alternate reality creeps in. A perfect contrast to the previous story: slow, thoughtful, melancholical and immensely touching. The prose was perfect and Robin Hobb just nailed the old and slow Sarah's character. The best story in the anthology, so far.

1 * for the contemporary crime thriller "I Know How to Pick 'Em" by Lawrence Block. Married woman hooks up with a man in the bar. Psychological setup, the incestuous mother being the dangerous woman. I was glad that it was that short because I didn't get into the characters and to be honest, I'm glad that I didn't.

5 * for the cosmere fantasy "Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell" by Brandon Sanderson. Don't kindle fire, don't draw blood, don't run. Sanderson usually builds a rule-set like this for his magic wielders. Here, forest's inhabitants have to follow those rules to avoid being killed by spirits. Our dangerous woman is the inn-keeper who bounty hunts at night.
After a short introduction, the story turns into an action-heavy page-turner with a great, tense and dark atmosphere. I'll probably have to re-read it another time to get all the hints and turns.
Nearly as good as The Emperor's Soul. Sanderson proved with this work that he is able to deliver shorter works along his doorstopper novels.
He surprised me because I'm used to a lighter tone in his work - here we have Dark Fantasy!

1.5 * for the historical fiction "A Queen in Exile" by Sharon Kay Penman. Some 20 years after "Nora’s Song", the stupor mundi ("wonder of the world") is born - or the antichrist, depending who you ask: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen and Holy Roman Emperor. Much has been written about the Night at Jesi when he was given birth publicly by his mother Constance. She really isn't a dangerous women here and the author has to motive her entry in a epilogue. I found the historical setting to be interesting. But the characterizations are shallow, the dialogues dry and the story arc is boring. I'd rather have read a historical text book.

2 * for contemporary fantasy "The Girl in the Mirror" by Lev Grossman set in his The Magicians world. I didn't read Grossman yet and I don't need a Harry Potter copy. Towards the end it was hard to follow and it wasn't that imaginative.

4 * for post-apocalyptic SF novelette "Second Arabesque, Very Slowly" by Nancy Kress. I loved her novella/novel Beggars in Spain and yearned for this story: Decades after a decease ripping female fertility, there are only a few packs hunting and gathering in upper Manhattan's Central Park and Lincoln Theater. Kress is strong in dialogue, characterization and builds a vivid and tense atmosphere. She mixes a bizarre setting of survival rules concentrating around fertility and ballett, contrasting beauty and brutality.

3 * for contemporary crime fiction "City Lazarus" by Diana Rowland. New Orleans isn't the same anymore when the Mississippi changed its course. This is the setting for a noir post-apocalyptic romance. We see a femme fatale love triangle between the corrupt police officer Danny, his rich "business"-partner and stripper Delia. The setting and dialogues were good, characterization of Danny was great but the story lacked a bit and was predictable and not well-motivated.

2 * for historical romance novella "Virgins" by Diana Gabaldon. This historical romance novella set within the Outlander series is published in Dangerous Women.
I've read the first novel in the series Outlander ages ago and don't remember much. But you don't need much from that background to enjoy the novella.

Jamie Fraser and his friend Ian are part of a mercenary gang convoying a Jewish bride and her dowry from 18th century Bordeaux towards her wedding in Paris. But the bride being the dangerous woman changes the course of action.

Lots of action alternating with some more quiet passages.
This is not really historical fiction but a trivial and predictable romance story having a historical atmosphere - meaning, we don't encounter historical persons or events.
I don't know if the bride is the virgin or the Scotish lads are meant by the title. Some of the dialogues were quite funny because of their prudish reluctance. Dialect and slang in the dialogues made it harder to understand for me.

The story was ok for me and I even liked it in-between.
For series-fans it's probably a must and I can see where they'd really like the story. But as I'm not invested in the series (and won't be), it is so very unimportant to be remembered that I rounded it down to 2 stars.


1.5 * for ghost story "Hell Hath No Fury" by Sherrilyn Kenyon. This contemporary Native American ghost story starts like Blair Witch project . It works within this anthology as it has a complete different tone and style than the other stories so far. But the story arc doesn't manage to get the story scary, it just drowns in moralistic preachery. Worst was the epilogue.

3 * for alternate history/post-apocalyptic "Pronouncing Doom" by S. M. Stirling set in his Emberverse series. Civilization is broken down, machines don't work anymore (it isn't explained why), people settle in tribes and farm their homeland. In this community, people went for pagan religion. There was a crime that the external leader has to judge - without having an established judicial system. It is only later clear what the crime was - but it is predictable like the punishment for it. More interesting than the story itself were the setting, atmosphere and moral implications. My main problem was the basic assumption that after a year society would change in exactly that way - I found Nance Kress' post apocalyptic setup far more believable. But maybe that is explained better in the novels of the series. Like other stories in the anthology it seems to be cut out of the series.

5 * for fantasy "Name the Beast" by Sam Sykes is one of the best stories in this anthology. Mother and child go into the forest to complete an initiation ritual - they are hunting a beast. The father wants to make sure that the child accomplishes the task. Sykes works with elliptical constructions to transport emotions and changing perspectives. The masterful prose alone makes the story memorable but also the transported emotions working around the concept of humanity. The surprising and open ending concludes why I think that this is short story how it should be. I haven't read anything by Sykes and now I wonder what I should read by him.

1 * for detective story "Caretakers" by Pat Cadigan. Two sisters care for their dement mother in the nursing home. The younger sister volunteers at the nursing home and finds out that something is going wrong. It was the second Alzheimer story after Robin Hobb's "Neigbor" but far worse. Pat Cadigan can write perfect stories, she even won this year's Novelette Hugo for The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi. I just didn't manage to connect to the story, didn't care for the setting or story arc and would have rather read some cyberpunk story from her. The story was completely pointless for me or even illogical.

3.5 * for super-hero comic story "Lies My Mother Told Me" by Caroline Spector. GR doesn't say anything about the author and wikipedia knows her as a RPG author mainly. This story is set in the Wild Cards Earth during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The female super-hero Bubbles (former model getting fat to develop her powers) and her daughter are attacked by zombies. This is so fitting - New Orleans plus zombies, I had to laugh! Initially they thought that it was caused by a friend - super-hero Joey is a necromancer. But the real antagonist just needed money to finance his internet bill for counterstrike gaming. The story turns from joking to a serious, dark and emotional undertaking. The characters developed very good in this setup. It was a nice contrast to the other stories.

3 * for "The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens" by George R.R. Martin.It is set 200 years before the A Song of Ice and Fire series, when Targaryen ruled Westeros and some two dozend dragons were alive. A civil war fights for the succession to the throne. Betrayal, murder, blood-baths, everything is in it. There is far more violence than the previous stories in the anthology together. And dragons! Lots of dragons and dragons fighting other dragons. This alone could be a good motivation to read the novella.
On the other hand, it is for hardcore fans, only: GRRM chose to tell the story from a historian point of view. Fans might find the massive list of "historical" characters fascinating, but other readers will get lost in the textbook details. It is well worth the effort as an appendix or in the style of a The History Of Middle Earth Index.

As a story standing for itself it lacks seriously.
I had to give it 3 stars because I'm that nerdy fan - objectively it would be more like 1.5 stars.

Is this a teaser for The World of Ice and Fire?
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Reading Progress

December 22, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
December 22, 2013 – Shelved
January 2, 2014 – Started Reading
January 3, 2014 –
10.0% "First 3 stories are ok; Abercrombie's could be better. Detective story and historical fiction followed."
January 4, 2014 –
20.0% "I had a blast with Jim Butcher! And Melinda Snograss's SF was really good."
Started Reading (Audiobook Edition)
January 5, 2014 –
33.0% "Robin Hobb's weird Alzheimer story was awesome! And I really liked the old geezer wrestling story."
January 5, 2014 – Shelved (Audiobook Edition)
January 5, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014 (Audiobook Edition)
January 5, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy (Audiobook Edition)
January 5, 2014 – Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)
January 6, 2014 –
50.0%
January 6, 2014 –
50.0%
January 7, 2014 –
56.0%
January 9, 2014 –
75.0% "Sam Sykes story was a good surprise, loving it!"
January 9, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 10, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014
January 10, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by G33z3r (new)

G33z3r I've been curious about this book - especially the Kress & Vaughn stories, whose short stories I usually like, and maybe Sanderson, tho in his case I prefer his lengthy novels. I'm looking forward to rest of your reviews.


Kevin Xu Dresden is really different in style, so I think you will like it as I love the series, but hate Codex Alera.


Cathy I really enjoyed your review. I hope it's OK that I refer to it and link to it in my review. If you like me to remove the link, let me know.


Andreas Thanks Cathy, its a honor to be cited! I wrote the detailed reviews more for myself to remember in a year what all the hype was about. Often, I don't remember Stories at all anymore. If others like the Review, the happier I am :)


message 5: by Hadi (new)

Hadi I loved both of them, but they have some really different styles, so you should try Dresden Files if you haven't already :)


Andreas I had to edit the review because Goodread merged detailed story reviews into this one. No more linking :)


message 7: by Mbp (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mbp Thanks for this. Most reviewers won't talk about individual stories to supplement their broad statements. Nice review.


Andreas Thanks! I tend to forget each and everything about individual stories: I do it for my own sake.


message 9: by A. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A. Dawes Thanks, Andreas. Love that you've dedicated time to each and every story here. Trying to do the same with my reviews of anthologies/ You've inspired me to start with this one.


message 10: by Céline (new)

Céline It's always a great pleasure to read your reviews, they are so well detailed and we can learn a lot from it; nice analysis.


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