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Inkspot Fancy

Comics and fantasy and sci-fi, oh my!

Currently reading

The House on the Borderland
William Hope Hodgson
Dust and Light: A Sanctuary Novel
Carol Berg
The Dead
Jen Hickman, Robert James Maddox
Deadlands: Dead Man's Hand
David Gallaher, Jeff Mariotte, Jimmy Palmiotti
Ghost Hunt 2
Shiho Inada, Fuyumi Ono
Devil Survivor 1
Satoru Matsuba
Dangerous Women - Jim Butcher, George R.R. Martin, Gardner R. Dozois, Diana Gabaldon

Okay, let's start with the overall final thoughts - some of the stories were really fun, some were really weak, and it's surprising how many of them didn't actually seem to have a "dangerous woman" in them unless you really squinted at the definition. I can't really rec the whole thing, but some of the stories were definitely worth a read.

Joe Abercrombie's "Some Desperado" introduces us to Shy, a young woman on the run after stealing the proceeds of a bank robbery. This is a somewhat straightforward Western-style tale with a really great voice for the main character, perfect pacing and a fantastic setting in a crumbling old ghost town. We come into and leave the story at exactly the right points. Solid start, and my first introduction to Abercrombie I believe.

I think "My Heart is Either Broken" by Megan Abbott struck me more oddly than any short fiction I've read in a while, even including the Lovecraft I finally dove into last year. I'm not precisely sure I liked the story, but there was something haunting about the tale of a couple whose daughter goes missing, and the way both of them react. The growing questions and paranoia the husband has toward the wife, her odd behavior, and especially the end give this story just the subtlest flavor of horror, which I did like. Just not sure the story as a whole was my thing.

Third offering was Cecilia Holland's "Nora's Song," a historical fiction piece which sort of feels like it was peeled off the beginning of a longer work. What little I remember of these people from my history classes suggests to me that there's a lot more complexity that should be in here. While watching the courtly politics from the point of view of a young girl is an interesting way to go about it, this one didn't quite connect with me. Maybe I'm just a tough sell for historical fiction.

"The Hands that Are Not There" by Melinda Snodgrass was the first sc-i-fi offering in the book, and was a bit of an unusual tale. We get a story within a story of sex, politics and trust. Other than some themes that felt kind of forced and anvilicious(did you know prejudice and sexism are bad?) I actually found this pretty engaging and fun, though I really wish we'd gotten more of the "dangerous woman."

I've been told I need to read Jim Butcher, but I've never until now found the time. After reading "Bombshells" I'm not sure I'm any more likely to seek him out, but I think his work could probably be entertaining. I think this story suffered a little from Butcher having so many imitators and having had a big impact on the genre. This story was quick-moving and full of interesting characters, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen all of this before. I also get the feeling this would work better if you're a Dresden Files reader.

"Wrestling Jesus" by Joe R. Lansdale was a great story, but I feel like I have to cry foul on the book theme. It's about an old man and a young one and boxing and life. And there is a woman in it, but I'm not sure she's functionally different in the story from, say, a gold brick. Still, I enjoyed the story itself, I found the old man likeable in his way, and the cadence of the story really kept me reading.

At this point, taking them in order, "Neighbors" by Megan Lindholm is hands down my favorite so far. We have an unreliable narrator, an old woman whose well-meaning children fear she may be combatting issues related to her age. But at the same time as she's dealing with them, and with the events causing the rift with them, a strange, foggy world has appeared to her a few times. She's convinced a friend of hers, who disappeared one night, may have crossed into that world and something may have happened to her. The story is full of narration that can be understood multiple ways, and no one's a bad guy, but kind of everyone is. It was really an enthralling read.

By contrast, Lawrence Block's "I Know How to Pick 'em" did pretty much nothing for me. It's about a man picked up by a woman in a bar and they go back to a motel and talk. Everyone in this is unlikeable, I had no sympathy or empathy, and the language had a meandering quality that I know a lot of people enjoy but I really don't.

I don't think I've ever encountered a Brandon Sanderson book that disappointed me, and now I can extend that to short stories with "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell." This tale of a woman who owns an inn in a spirit-infested forest and the things she does to keep it running was a fascinating read. Sanderson, as usual, crafts a unique, magical and violent world, and I really liked out main character.

"A Queen in Exile" by Sharon Kay Penman had an interesting idea and person at its core, but my goodness, was the writing style not to my taste. The paragraphs were huuuuuge, lengthy descriptions of all sorts of things. By contrast the action hopped around all over the place, sometimes resorting to summarizing, and it read more like a lively history book than a fictional short story.

My only exposure to Lev Grossman was "The Magicians," which I disliked, and since "The Girl in the Mirror" was set in the same world I was not sure what I'd find. And this story of a prank that backfires at Brakebills is... okay. I did enjoy the writing, and I think I enjoy the main character - with Grossman, I have a hard time telling - but it was a bit of a weird ending and I feel like I must have missed something.

In almost a mirror of that is Nancy Kress' "Second Arabesque, Very Slowly." I only read "Beggars in Spain" which I might have liked as a novella but disliked a lot as a full novel. In this case, I thought "Second Arabesque" caught much of what I liked about Kress' writing without being vaguely unlikeable or nonsensically extreme (given the plot focusing on a post-apocalyptic world where fertility has taken a hit). I like that not only is this a dangerous women story, it's one with an abundance of female characters, unlike a great many in this anthology.

"City Lazarus" by Diana Rowland only saved itself from being another "where's the dangerous woman?" entry by a last-minute twist, but it wasn't enough to save this story full of unlikeable characters and mood without meaning for me. I'm sure others will love it, and the writing and characterization is definitely solid, but the only thing that got me all the way through it was the fact that it was so short.

By contrast, I didn't make it through "Virgins" by Diana Gabaldon. I read "Outlander" not too long ago, and found Jamie to be one of the least interesting parts of the whole thing. I'm sure we would have gotten to a dangerous woman at some point, but I had so little interest in reading about Jamie and this group he was with that I gave up before we got to her. I suspect that if you loved that book and liked these characters in it though, then you'll really enjoy this since it felt very much like a part of that book, writing- and style-wise.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Hell Hath No Fury" was another one that I finished by virtue of it being short. The story was... okay, I guess. Not great, not even good, but okay. It's supposed to be like a myth and a ghost story rolled into one, I think, but the tale was obvious, the characters kinda clunky and some of the writing a bit flat.

Things got a little better for me with "Pronouncing Doom" by S.M. Stirling. Bits of this one were actually good - I liked our main character, and the question of what rule of law a court can have when the old rules have dissolved is interesting, if a bit obvious. Well-written at times, but in love with sharing its worldbuilding instead of story at others, this held my attention all the way through.

I found Sam Sykes' "Name the Beast" a bit confusing. In technical terms, we're swapping between two points of view, both of women (well, one's a girl), both involved in a mother/daughter relationship, both with their own brands of protectiveness and love. Despite the confusion, I liked this one enough to read it twice, and found it to be really well written and engaging. One of the better stories, even if it takes a bit to sink into.

Pat Cadigan's "Caretakers" was a little weird. Like "Pronouncing Doom" it felt like there was a lot more in this story than there needed to be, and it obfuscated some of the secondary plot (well, you could argue primary plot, but I sort of get the feeling the primary plot was the evolving relationship with the sisters, and the whole thing with the nursing home was just secondary, a catalyst.) Mostly it was well written and I very much connected with the sisters, even if I thought sometimes they were overreacting.

"Lies my Mother Told Me" by Caroline Spector might be my personal favorite story in this collection, though I feel confident in saying it's not the best one. It's about superheroes from the Wild Cards universe, and I absolutely love the characters we were introduced to in this tale of power-stealing and trust. This was another one that felt like it nailed the anthology theme as well. Oh, and it made me want to look into more Wild Cards stuff, so there's that. :)

Final story was "The Princess and the Queen" by George R. R. Martin and this one's a difficult story to talk about because I strongly suspect I really only enjoyed it as a history lesson on the Targaryens. It reads  like history - the more interesting history books, to be sure, but a history no less - and it shares a common issue with many Martin stories in WAY too many names being thrown at you to keep track. But I did enjoy it, and there were a few dangerous women in it.