There have been a number of science fiction anthologies released over the last few years, and a good portion of them were on the subject of dystopian worlds. A future time where things don’t look so great, but the characters in the stories have hope for something better. But none of them are anything like Diverse Energies edited by Tobias Bucknell of British and Caribbean heritage. In the introduction, Bucknell talks about growing up and loving science fiction, but was always disappointed how the covers featured tough white guys with chiseled chins; that none of them ever looked like him. So when he set out to put Diverse Energies together, he was looking for diversity in every story.
“The Last Day” by Ellen Oh is set in a dystopian Japan where the world is at war and the children fear the next explosion will wipe out everything. “Next Door” by Rahul Kanakia is a world where the rich and well off are hooked into their virtual worlds, while the poor squat in their homes trying to eke out a living; in this story two boyfriends search for the ultimate place to live. “Good Girl” by Malinda Lo is about a relationship between two girls set in a world where races need to be pure otherwise people will become infected with a lethal illness; at least that’s what the government is telling them. The high point of the anthology is “Uncertainty Principle” by K. Tempest Bradford about a girl whose world keeps changing and she’s the only one who knows it’s happening. The collection also features stories from Paolo Baciagalupi and Ursula LeGuin.
Diverse Energies features no stories with tough white dudes and their chiseled chins. It features real people, from all walks of life, from all classes, from a number of different races, nations and cultures. The plots are unique and interesting encompassing many different worlds, and while all of them are of a dystopian nature, some have a little more hope and possibility than others. Diverse Energies is an anthology like no other, which is exactly why you need to read it.
For Haruki Murakami fans who enjoy his unique blendof the dark and bizarre, Yoko Ogawa is definitely an author you’ll want to check out. Revenge, a collection of eleven of her short stories, reveals that this is a genre of Japanese literature that will grab you with its claws and suck you in.
A young nurse in love with a brilliant surgeon threatens to kill him if he does not leave his wife. A writer living in a strange apartment block learns that the landlady is a murderer. In the most moving tale of the collection, a woman with the unique condition that her heart is on the outside of her body needs a special bag to contain and protect it; a unique bag tailor must create the perfect vessel for it and becomes obsessed with the project.
Each of the stories in this collection becomes linked with the next, whether through a minor detail, a character, or a related event, stringing the collection together into a beautiful and dark web. While a short read, readers will nevertheless be spirited away with these creepy, unforgettable tales.
V Wars is an interesting effort edited by Jonathan Maberry, bestselling author of Patient X and The Dragon Factory, bringing together a number of authors writing their own stories set in the same world where there are vampires. Sometimes characters cross over, and occasional plot lines are intertwined, but for the most part each author is writing their own, individual story. The result is a book that while not as cohesive as a complete novel written by a single author, features a number of interesting viewpoints in a world where vampires begin to take over.
Maberry’s own story, “Junk,” which continues in a number of parts, sets the stage for V Wars with the first of the infected from his perspective as he deal s with the changes of becoming a vampire and the growing lust and hunger that can only be satiated by fresh blood. It is unclear how or why certain people first turned, but it is thought to be a virus affecting “junk DNA.” In this world your heritage matters when you become a vampire, as all the folklore and history of vampires is true in a sense; the vampires we are all familiar with from Bram Stoker are for those with a Romanian heritage, while people of Russian descent are their own kind of vampire, and Native Americans yet another.
V Wars features stories from the likes of Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, Keith Decandido, Scott Nicholson, and more. It is a book that is certainly an interesting experiment with some impressive ideas and aspects that will leave you chilled to the bone.
For anyone who’s grown up in the United States, you’ve more than likely been exposed to Mark Twain in one form or another, whether it’s having read one or more of his books in high school, seeing a biographical story about him on TV, or hearing one of the many hundreds of references about him; to many his is the quintessential “Great American Author.” And just a little over a century after his passing, Everyman’s Library has released a beautiful hardcover edition collecting all of his short stories. What makes these different stories compared to his novels? Twain is freer and seems to have more fun with his short stories, being more uproarious, satirical and rollicking in the short prose than with the long. This is the Twain that many may not be as familiar with, but it is well worth the read.
There is the strange tale of “The Facts in the Great Beef Contract” about a debt owed to a family by the US government for beef, and how as each family member passes without the payment being fulfilled, the next member ventures forth to try and get back what was owed. There is the famous “Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” set in the familiar Northern Californian “Angel’s Camp.” “Journalism in Tennessee” is about a journalist taking on the agriculture section of a local newspaper, even though he knows nothing about farming, and proceeds to spew complete lies and fiction, incurring the ire of the local farmers.
Collectingall of Mark Twain’s sixty short stories, this collection shows the great author’s full breath from writing entertaining fiction, to travel pieces, to contemplative nonfiction; the only problem is that at times the line between fiction and reality becomes somewhat blurred. But with Twain’s conversational and comforting voice, readers will be welcomed and taken on a truly great adventure.
The recent passing of Ray Bradbury was a very sad loss for the writing world, as we lost not just one of the foremost science fiction writers of our time, but one of our greatest storytellers and writers period. But even with his loss, Ray Bradbury will continue to be read and enjoyed by many fans, as well as be discovered by new readers for the first time. The Illustrated Man is an excellent example for those looking to give Ray Bradbury a try and find out just how good he is.
The book is told with the framing story of the illustrated man – a man covered in tattoos that when stared at by others come to life and tell their own stories. Stories of a future high-tech nursery where children play amongst real animals, but when their parents threaten to take this supreme toy away, they have a plan to take care of them once and for all. A story of a future Mars colonized by black people, but now Earth is on the brink of obliteration and the white man needs a new place to live; will the colonists of Mars allow this immigration? There is the moving story of “The Rocket Man” who loves his wife and son ever so much, but continues to feel the yearning pull of space and can never remain on Earth too long. In “The City” some space travelers discover an abandoned city on a planet, but as they search through it, it seems the city is not uninhabited after all.
The stories in The Illustrated Man will move you, they’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you cry; they’ll make you terrified and also make you think about the way your world is and about the way it might one day be. This is Bradbury at his best and no fan of the short story – no matter the genre – will want to skip this one.
Ray Bradbury is undoubtedly one of our greatest short stories writers of our time, and perhaps of all time. Whichever collection of his you find yourself picking up, you will instantly be delighted with his magical worlds and lyrical prose. A lot of his stories go one step further, leaving you with a sense of wonder and contemplation. Bradbury shouldn’t be simply considered and categorized as a science fiction or fantasy writer; he ultimately writes about people and their interactions with each other and with reality, albeit true or made up. The October Country is a perfect example of this, with a most unique anthology of stories.
In the opening tale, “The Dwarf,” we get to meet a most unusual character of short stature who spends his days paying what little money he has at the carnival to visit the Hall of Mirrors where he stares at himself, taller than life. In “Skeleton,” true horrors are revealed in this brilliant story where a man becomes convinced that his bone structure is trying to escape his body, until he meets a doctor who agrees with him and apparently has a penchant for one’s marrow. In “The Small Assassin,” a child is a precious thing, but this newborn seems to have a vengeful urge to kill the one who gave birth to it. “The Scythe” is a story about a poor family discovering an abandoned farmstead; they move in and live off the land, enjoying the food and life it provides, but the father knows there is a cost to bear each day he goes out and scythes the field that was clear the day before. In perhaps the most haunting tale of the collection, “The Wind,” we pay witness to an invisible force that wants to kill.
The October Country is a powerful collection featuring many of Bradbury’s best stories and revealing his excellence as both a storyteller and a skilled writer. Readers looking to try Bradbury for the first time would do well to start with this collection.
There are essentially three types of Haruki Murakami fans:those who enjoy his novels, those who enjoy his short stories, and those who enjoy both. I enjoy both, perhaps his novels a little more. For those looking to see what this great author has to offer with his talent, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman provides twenty-four examples of this, each story feeling special and unique.
In the first story, of the same name as the collection, a half-deaf character experiences this strange world through his own filtered way, as the blind willow trees provide pollen that fly and burrow inside a woman’s ear; the story is poetic and moving. In “The Mirror,” a man looks into a mirror to find someone else standing there, someone he doesn’t completely recognize, only to later discover there never was a mirror. “The Shinagawa Monkey” tells the unusual story of a woman who has lost her name and the steps she takes to find it again and why she ultimately lost it.
Readers will be whisked away and become lost in these many enchanting tales of the unusual and in some instances, bizarre, but they will see the truly great talent of Haruki Murakami, and discover why so many people the world over have become timeless fans of his works.
Authors have been going on some time now about the withering world of shortstories, and how they’re not as popular anymore; not getting read, and are a dying art; Stephen King likes to remind his readers each time he publishers a short story collection. Then again, short story collections from bestselling authors continue to get published and be popular, but then these volumes are pretty much guaranteed to be big sellers. As for the collection of short stories from a lesser known author whose talent lies in this format, as opposed to the full-length novel, this certainly seems to be outside the sphere of popularity. The likes of Ray Bradbury and James Thurber proved that incredible worlds and characters can be created in a limited number of pages, with a limited number of words.
Ben Loory is a fresh new author who proves in his debut collection, Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day, that he has the literary cojones to be shelved with some of the short story writing greats. Loory has been published in The New Yorker, Gargoyle Magazine, and Antioch Review, and in this first book he presents forty short stories for readers to be swept away by. While Loory’s stories are relatively short – some only a couple pages long – he nevertheless has a skill for creating a compelling story that leaves you wondering after you’ve finished it. Loory’s stories have a way of hooking you in, with unpredictable events, so you really have no clue what is to happen next, and seemingly with some sort of hidden message that you take away from it, even if you’re not sure exactly what that message is.
Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day is dark and creepy, sunny and funny, happy and sad, moving and shocking . . . you’ll find yourself rooted in your seat, moving on to the next story once you’re done, wanting more, more, more.
The subject known as “urban fantasy” has grown to become its very own strong and prominent genre in fantasy, and yet there are still many people who have yet to read an urban fantasy book, or an urban fantasy story for that matter. And where are said readers supposed to start with the glut of urban fantasy currently out, along with the many more works being published? An anthology is a good place to start; this particular anthology – Naked City – is a great one.
With so many different authors writing urban fantasy, it’s hard to decide on which one to like and read. Naked City makes that easy for the reader in offering twenty stories by different authors to get interested in and choose from. The book kicks off with another great romping ride courtesy of Jim Butcher, and this time Harry Dresden is on the case of the Chicago Cubs curse. Naomi Novik’s entertaining tale, “Priced to Sell,” is about vampires buying real estate in Manhattan. Patricia Brigg’s “Fairy Gifts” features a vampire called home to save those who freed him from a curse. Melissa Marr’s “Guns for the Dead” is the story of a dead man trying to get by in the afterlife, who keeps falling into trouble.
In the introduction, popular and prolific editor Ellen Datlow talks about the important of place in Naked City, with most of the stories featuring an important location as their focus point. Readers will learn lots about various towns across America in Naked City, as well as some other places not found on any known map.
By now many people will be familiar with the bestselling co-editor of Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow, after the young adult novel Little Brother, and his great adult book, Makers. Doctorow clearly has a knack for not just being to be able to string a bunch of words together creatively and skillfully, but each and every story is an important “What if?” to tell. Sometimes Doctorow offers dates, sometimes not; but readers can usually guess his stories are set in either the near future or within the next hundred years, involving a possible future that will capture, delight, and sometimes terrify. Doctorow seems to grasp at our idle thoughts of this century and the next, transforming them into a believable possibility that really makes us wonder.
With a Little Help collects thirteen of his short stories that have seen publication in anthologies or magazines or other media over the past few years revealing Doctorow’s ability to tell a great, captivating science fiction story not just in long form, but also in short with developed characters you can connect with and a story that will haunt you and stay with you long after you have finished it. Whether it’s the Internet, government, politics, or religion, Doctorow seems to have a unique take on it all, presenting a world that we’re encroaching upon right now, or will be in the ensuing decades.
The book is also an experiment in itself, only available as a print on demand in printed form, or available free as an ebook, though donations are politely requested through his website. One might think in this day and age of piracy and scouring the Internet for illegal free items, this concept would result in failure, and yet this great collection continues to make money, which Doctorow isn’t ashamed to hide with monthly financial reports. Perhaps, then, this is the message he is trying to share in his compelling stories: there is still hope . . .