Ok, standard disclaimer that I seem to have to write every time I review a collection of short stories – I don’t particularly like them. I am not a fan of short stories, I’m not fan of stand alone stories that aren’t part of a larger series and I’m not a fan of collections of stories that aren’t related to each other
Now, this is a collection of short stories, none of them are from series, and none of them are related to each other. There’s also 19 short stories in this book. I tend to lose interest in any collections of stories that go over 10. I don’t think there’s even really a uniting theme – they’re all by the same author and they’re all speculative fiction, but that’s about it
In other words, I started this book trying very much to like it because I’d heard good things – but fearing that I was going to hate it simply because of my own dislike of short stories.
Thankfully, I loved it. Most of it anyway
It started really well with The Easthound. I loved how this really creepy story of a dystopia led by children really managed to pack a lot of world building in through without any real infodumping – the lack of adults, the fear of growing up, literally starving themselves so they wouldn’t age, the horror of being children with no adults to look after them and how that permeates how they react to the world. They’re children trying to survive – and the way they look at the world is childlike, almost a terrifying game of survival.
I think this sense of the creepy works really well in many of the stories – Old Habits. It’s take on ghosts and what they hunger for is chilling and a truly terrifying view of a horrific afterlife without being s dramatic and gory as so many others
The Smile on My Face was amazing fun and an awesome look at body issues and self-worth with a dash of mythology and a whole lot of getting behind someone and cheering her – and a great scene of battling against rape and sexual assault without graphic depiction of victimisation – it’ strong and awesome all through. I especially like how, despite their being a Mean Girl, Gilla still reaches out to her in clear solidarity (even if it is also an excellent snide put down) because even a Mean Girl would need someone to believe her if she were a victim. On the other end of the scale, Emily Breakfast was also a fun little story (with a large number of LGBT characters and my only brief issue is the only real characterisation was distinctly sexual in nature) that wasn’t as creepy or intimidating as some, but who can be against dragon chickens? More thoughtful was Shift which not only completely took a Shakespearean story and brought out a whole new idea from it – but then had several shifts and complexities that made this story (and it’s apparent antagonists) much much more fun than I imagined and, again, very thoughtful.
I don’t even begin to understand Herbal. I really don’t – but I still found it immensely cute but still have to express my bemusement. Similarly I found Snow Day bemusing and fun – but I have to add extra praise for presenting adventurousness and wish to remain at home as EQUALLY VALID and powerful choices.
Flying Lessons I understand all too well – it’s sad and enraging and awful – and so carefully not filled in with detail which, in some way, actually makes it more stark and awful: seeing this through the incomplete and hurt understanding of a child.
I shouldn’t, but I just love the concept of Blushing Bride and I can say absolutely nothing about it without spoiling it, but it made me very very very gleeful in all the wrong ways
Some stories, to me, just begged for more development, not because what was there wasn’t good enough, but because it begged for more to come because the concepts were so excellent.
Soul Case is one I kind of feel that way yet not. The world setting – building on the concept ofMarronnage, in the Carribean with escaped slaves managing to build their own community had such a lot of potential to be developed especially with the excellent mythology based on POC culture. But I think the power of it, the idea that even when committing an atrocity for the sake of good still has dire consequences: it’s done an especially subtle and implied way that really doesn’t WANT developing further. Similarly there’s A Young Candy Daughter which just begs for more development of a child god and their mother – but at the same time not developing it leaves us free to think it through on our own and consider the implications of it.