Saturday, February 25, 2012

Some of the Best from

Title: Some of the Best from
Editors: Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Liz Gorinsky
Genre: Science Fiction stories
Published: 2011

Summary: A short story collection from a number of well-known science fiction and fantasy authors.

Reactions: I have become alarmingly opportunistic with my reading ever since I got my Kindle. Mostly because I've found that I can find books for free. And not just any books -- but new(ish) books that I would normally pay money for to read. Since I have this free-book craze, I downloaded this free anthology from and enjoyed it. I am going to write a few thoughts about each story and hopefully you can pick up the ones that sound interesting to you.

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders (7/10). The premise of this short story is that a man and a woman live in the regular world, but they each have a superpower. The man can see the future and the woman can see a number of different futures. The premise of the story is that they meet and date each other. It's a story about their views on free will, and their superpowers interacting. It's a pretty cool premise -- though it takes a stretch of imagination to swallow the idea of these people existing and meeting each other. The relationship takes a few turns that I feel are not quite realistic either, but overall it raises a number of interesting issues and is a pretty interesting read.

The Dala Horse by Michael Swanwick (5/10). A story about a little girl who needs to walk to her grandma in the neighbouring village and meets a fugitive on her way there. Sounds a bit familiar? Here's the twist: the girl's backpack, map, and toys are all intelligent and their meeting will lead to clash between AI superpowers that control the human world. The story has an interesting twist, but I found myself disliking the POV that the author chose for the story and I guess I just didn't care as much for this rendition of the more familiar tale.

A Clean Sweep With All The Trimmings by James Alan Gardner (9/10). A story firmly rooted in noir genre staples where a "Cleaner" type tough guy is hired to dispose of an alien body in a brothel. In the process he meets a "Doll" whom the aliens are hunting. Her specialty is becoming exactly the sort of Doll a man next to her wants her to be. It's a very tongue-in-cheek adventure and I loved the language and the resolution of the story. A very well done noir science fiction that makes me want to check out this author's other works.

Beauty Belongs to the Flowers by Matthew Sanborn Smith (7/10). Set in futuristic Tokyo, this coming-of-age tale follows the teenage girl Miho whose father is dying after being infected with nanobots. It's a story giving a perspective on teenage rebellion and self-worth in a world where technology can make anyone and anything look beautiful. The tale is a combination of a love story and learning about yourself. I think I would have liked the story better in a longer format -- the character growth was a bit too rapid for the story timeline and the ending was rather bizarre.

A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel by Yoon Ha Lee(5/10). This rather strange story is a collection of descriptions of cultures of a variety of civilizations and their approach to interstellar travel. It's interesting in the variety of the imaginings, but I was somewhat hard-pressed to understand the meaning of the story. Perhaps others may like this one better.

Ragnarok by Paul Park (5/10). This was actually not a short story, but rather an epic poem set in post-apocalyptic Iceland following the traditions of epic narratives. The story is well-told, but I just didn't enjoy the epic poem medium of telling the story. Not quite my cup of tea.

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor (7/10). An atmospheric tale set in Africa where a woman mixes technology and juju to create three powerful wigs for herself and her two friends. The wig gives them powers over others, but also changes them in ways the creator didn't expect. I thought the setting made this story quite interesting as well as the mechanics of magic. The overheating wigs left me amused and the story-telling was pretty good if not in itself as imaginative as some of the other authors in the collection.

Shtetl Days by Harry Turtledove (10/10). Probably my favorite piece of work in this anthology. The premise of this novella is that Reich has won WWII and by mid-21st century it has exterminated most Jews. To remind the world of how awful things were before their reign, Germany sets up a pretend-village modeled after early 20th century Polish settlement where German actors play roles of Jews and Poles in the village. The production is set up for realism - the actors get immersed in the atmosphere day in and day out and are taught to completely ignore the tourists visiting the village. With the actors practicing the language and the culture daily, the novella examines the idea of actors becoming what they are portraying.


  1. I used to be able to somewhat keep up with you in terms of reading, but I'm completely giving up from here on out.

    Ouch! Swanwick's story was my favorite of those above that I've read; oh well...

    I thought Okorafor's story felt unfinished. I got to the end and said, "It's really over?"

    I've read so much good about Paul Park, but I don't get poetry. I remember trying to read that one two or three times but could never manage to get through it.

    1. Muahaha! j/k

      I am wondering what you liked about Swanwick's story? I would agree it's very imaginative, but just didn't sit well with me.

      Agreed on the somewhat unfinished feeling with Okorafor's story, but I didn't mind it as much. I guess it all depends on how I hit it off with the story content ;)

      Trying to decide what to read next. Suggestions?

  2. I love Swanwick's science fiction faerie tales. I've always thought there was something very evocative about all his short stories. I always like how he subverts the hell out of everything you might expect from one of his stories.

    Suggestions? You could get in trouble throwing that at me...

    If I'm to stay on the Swanwick's my guy kick, I'd mention The Dog Said Bow-Wow; Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne Valente and if you are in need of having your mind blown, and Ragtime by E.L. Dotorow will give you a strong fix of awesome.

    Also I've been reading a lot of books about sex lately, but I feel kinda odd throwing them out there as recommendations. Nonetheless, let me know if you're in need.

    1. Thanks for recommendations! I've added Swanwick's book to my to-read list, but not in the mood for short stories at the moment. I am also not a fan of Valente - I've read Orphan Tales and didn't like the language style very much. Seriously considering Ragtime though -- just downloaded a sample to my Kindle. Thanks for the recommendations!

    2. I hope you do get around to Swanwick. Have some time off when you start Ragtime; it caught me off guard and kept me up pretty late because I had to read it.

      Actually I should have held that recommendation back; now I'll have to work harder at finding a good b-day gift.