After a four month hiatus, we return to reviewing!
So sorry for the downtime, but we had a parental heart surgery, several trips, and a house move in the last quarter of 2013 and the first couple of months of 2014. We should now return to our regular appearances on the pages of the magazine.
The last quarter of 2013 was a busy time for good anthologies. Having not read many all year, there were suddenly five which looked like good winter reads. Hank Davis of Baen edited both Halloween and Christmas anthologies. For those who like a good scary science fiction story, In Space No One Can Hear You SCREAM (of course it was released in October, 2013) contains a variety of old but not seen recently stories and some stories in a classic style from modern authors. All the stories have a spooky element to them, but none of them are gory. This volume contains stories by George R.R. Martin, Arthur C. Clarke, Neal Asher, Theodore Sturgeon, and several Baen regulars. One of the best things about Hank’s anthologies is his choice of content. Some science fiction magazines contain some stories which bear no resemblance to Your Humble Reviewers’ definition of science fiction (or that of anyone else who likes classic adventure stuff). Hank likes the classic stuff and writes some of it, too, so we rarely find a story we don’t like in his anthologies. So while we primarily read novels, a few anthologies get in which are either Hank’s, contain stories by people whose novels we read, or are edited by people we know.
Hank returned in November, 2013 with another Christmas anthology called A Cosmic Christmas 2 You. All the stories in this volume were very entertaining and some had quite a few points to make about the holidays. Stories showed extreme commercialism, Christmas completely forgotten, places with odd practices, and every variety of futuristic setting you could imagine. Authors in this volume include Connie Willis, Frederik Pohl, Joe Haldeman, Esther Friesner, plus several Baen regulars.
October saw the release of two very interesting non-Halloween anthologies, based on classic science fiction universes. One from Baen, Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs edited by Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcia, with fiction from just about all of ERB’s universes written by many of today’s best-selling science fiction authors. For many younger readers who haven’t read any of the stories from these universes, it is an excellent introduction as well as being a visit to familiar places for those of us who have read the classic stories.
The second one, Old Mars, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and published by Bantam, includes stories using the Mars of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There are fifteen all-new retro science fiction adventure stories set on a Mars with ancient canals and a red desert with the ruined cities of dying races in this volume. Some of today’s best writers have given us their version of the Red Planet of classic science fiction with aliens, interesting technology, and wildly varying types of Martian culture. This is a very entertaining volume. Due to the large volume of reading material which comes our way, we rarely buy hardbacks, much less anthologies, because we don’t have the bookcase space. This one I saw on the shelf and had to make a trip back the book store for it because I really wanted to read those classic stories. We would love to see an anthology of this type every year, perhaps with a Moon, a Bonestell space station or retro spaceship theme.
December also saw the release of an urban fantasy anthology called Kicking It, with all the stories being about characters who wear great boots. It is edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price, whose novels we have reviewed. The only universes in this volume which were familiar were from Faith, Kalayna and Lucienne Diver (whose novel we have also reviewed) so it was quite a crash course in the various urban fantasy settings. All of the stories had interesting characters that kicked butt with those spikey heeled boots! Some characters were definitely interesting enough to look for those novels in which they appear, like Rachel Caine’s Holly and Andrew, Rob Thurman’s Trickster and Chloe Neill’s Luc and Lindsey. Kalayna’s story featured side characters who we knew little about before “Ruby Red”, and so it was definitely a good edition to the Alex Craft universe. Faith’s story featured Molly’s twin little sisters and boy, do those two young witches know how to get themselves into some major trouble. Compared to these two, Jane Yellowrock stays very safe! Jane has a brief appearance and appears in a new adventure which came out in January (review of Black Arts coming soon). Lucienne’s Tory story gave us some great visuals of Apollo, but sadly no Nick, so we’ll have to wait on the next book, Rise of the Blood, which is out in ebook format now. We see the modern version of Arachne in “The Parlor” and it isn’t a pretty situation. Tory’s client does get a happy ending of sorts even if it wasn’t the type of ending she had envisioned originally.
Urban fantasy characters have such fantastic wardrobes usually that concentrating on their boots was quite interesting, even if we who usually only wear Harley Davidson boots didn’t have a clue about the fancy footwear mentioned. Perhaps a leather themed volume would be appreciated too, particularly by Jane Yellowrock readers.