Saturday, January 28, 2017

"In Memoriam" by Joanne Harris

"In Memoriam" by Joanne Harris 

This story comes out of the anthology "Dead Letters."  The anthology is edited by Conrad Williams. 

A man named, Carey Loewe, worked in the National Returns Centre for the Royal Mail.  The place where all the lost, return to sender, mail to Santa Claus, or just unmarked packages went when they couldn't find a home or the recipient of the letter or package.  he would open up the letters or packages and look to see if there was any information inside to get the item back to the owner. 

One day he found a letter addressed to Carey Loewe.  He couldn't believe he found a letter addressed to himself.  The sender was Liesel Blau and postmark stamped 1971.  One of the mysteries was that inside the letter was a photograph and USB thumb drive.  Technology that didn't exist in 1971.  He snuck the letter out of the Centre and went home.  He downloaded the thumb drive to his computer while checking out the photo.  On the thumb drive were even more pictures. 

He recognizes himself in all the photos and a little girl.  Slowly memories that he had hidden away start to resurface.  He remembers the little girl.  He remembers the other people in the photographs.  Slowly with each picture, the story takes you a little further into his hidden memories and thoughts.  His life growing up starts to unfold one picture at a time. 

This story did a good job of creating a mysterious circumstance revolving around one person.  It led you to believe there was more that first met the eye.  And then as the story progresses you find out there was more.  There was a lot more. 

It also left you wondering.  What was real and what was imagined.  Was this a man going insane?  Or was something bigger going on?  This story had a little bit of everything.  Mystery, suspense, ghosts (maybe?), childhood memories, and actions that may or may not have been taken.   

The only downside to this story I had is that I think it could have been longer.  The story was great, but it felt like it was a much bigger story forced into a short story.  The plot had a novel feel to it, not so much a short story.  Overall it was a good story, but just felt like it was forced into a short instead of taking advantage of a longer length like a novel, or even a novella.

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Animal Husbandry" by Seanan McGuire

"Animal Husbandry" by Seanan McGuire 
This story is from the anthology "Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse" edited by John Joseph Adams. 
This was a story about a veterinarian, Mercy Neely, on her way to Grants Pass, Oregon to meet up with her 9 year old daughter after a plague wipes out most of the population.  Along the way she sees to animals that have been abandoned by their owners or left behind after their owners were taken by the plague.  Part of seeing the animals is seeing that they don't suffer needlessly.  So she puts down the animals that are sick and suffering.  Why leave them in pain if they don't have to suffer? 
While Mercy is scrounging around inside of a store for supplies she runs into another survivor pointing a gun at her.  After some discussion he finds out she is a vet and asks her to come with him.  His daughter needs help.  Even though she protests that she doesn't know anything about people medicine she finally gives in knowing she probably at least know more than the guy does. 
After arriving at his daughter in an abandoned office building they find her lying in bed.  Mercy sits on the bed and does a check-up of the nine year old girl.  She is really sick and obviously dying.  She won't make it very long.  One thing that Mercy can do for the girl is make sure she doesn't suffer anymore.  How will she do that with the father around? 
The story talks about the plague that killed everyone.  Texas was decimated, so was California, and the plague was said to be man made.  It made mention as to possibly some terrorist organization being responsible for the plague.  I wish the author would of expanded on that for just another paragraph or two to really set sights on where to the plague came from. 
I understand that the point of the story wasn't necessarily about where the plague came from as much as it was about a vet who tried to help people stop suffereing by any means she had available.  I think it would of added a little bit of depth to the story though if the plague origins were addressed a tad bit more. 
Overall I really like this story and is another pretty good story from the anthology Wastelands 2.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Ad Valorem" by Jacob M. Appel

"Ad Valorem" by Jacob M. Appel 

This story come from the collection of stories called "Scouting For The Reaper" by Jacob M Appel. 

Ever ask yourself the question while dating, or maybe while married, is she/he worth it?  What is their worth?  What would change the value of that person?  How much value would they have to have in order to keep you interested or to care about them?  This story delves into questions like these and other deep themed emotions. 

A widow, Greta, goes to visit her accountant for the first time since her husband, George, passed away.  George always took care of everything and that included keeping all the receipts and dealing with the accountant for the taxes each year. 

On her first visit to the accountant, Felix, they both find out each other are widowed.  She drops off the receipts for Felix to do her taxes for her, but she felt there was a spark between them.  She ends up being correct and a few days later Felix came calling upon her.  She had some mixed feeling about being attracted to Felix because of George.  George was gone though and she wanted to move on with her life.  There was just one little thing in the back of her head that wouldn't go away. 

She took last years photocopied receipts down to the local H&R Block and had them do her taxes all over again.  She basically audited herself.  What she found took her breath away.  She had to make some decisions about Felix and her life.  She swayed back and forth not knowing where the pendulum would stop.  Where it stops is quite surprising, but not totally unfathomable. 

This was a good story around where we place our value of other people.  The title of the story went well with the theme.  Greta had to place a value on Felix.  She had to determine if it was worth paying the "tax" that went along with falling in love with this man.  Did she owe herself love?  How far could he go and she still be ok with what he was doing, or what he had done? 

This story delved deep into the psyche of a woman torn between love of a new man and the loyalty she felt due to the man she used to love before he died.  She has to come to grips with things that aren't so wonderful as it all seems. 

Part of what I really like about this story was the theme and title of the story.  They went together just so well I can't get that across enough.  As always, Jacob Appel's writing was top notch.  I have seen this top notch writing through his story so far and I doubt that it will go away in the next few stories left in his collection.  I look forward to reading his stories and they have a warm, comfy feeling to them.  Like you've been reading these stories for your entire life, instead of just sitting down with them for the first time that day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Fata Morgana" by Ken Mitchroney and Steven R Boyett

"Fata Morgana" by Ken Mitchroney and Steven R Boyett 

Not sure if it was just the copy I had or how my Kindle e-reader handled the file, but there was some formatting errors with my copy.  There would be a couple words and then it would drop the to the next line and finish the sentence.  Other than that formatting error occasionally the e-book was fine.  

A story about a WW II bomber going into some sort of parallel universe, Wow!  How can you go wrong with a synopsis like that.  That is what originally drew me to this story.  I really liked the sound of what the story was about.  The cover art is nice, and to be honest, I've never heard of the authors, but the story description sounded awesome. 
This book had some exciting sequences throughout the story.  The opening scene is an in late out early  type scenario and are tossed directly into battle.  It is an exciting scene though and really got me into the mood of the story.  I had a sense of being in the battle and what would be going on around me if I had been there.  The description here was done very well. 

The characters are introduced one by one, but that is where I ran into some issues.  Many of the characters were introduced, but were called by different names all during the same scene.  I had trouble keeping up with who was saying what because I couldn’t figure out whose name was whose from previous scenes.  I think that the character tags could have been shored up and tightened up a bit and it would of helped the story flow a little bit smoother for me. 

One minor thing that kind of bugged me was when a couple of the chapter breaks happened.  I think that it would have been a good transition into a new scene, but the hard break left the story feeling weird for some reason.  One example would be the backstory of Martin on the Ill Wind.  There was a hard chapter break and then it went into the backstory.  To me it would of felt more natural to just read a scene break and keep going. 

Sometimes the description became too much for me.  I would just start skimming through paragraphs that described in a lot of detail.  There were also a lot of military terms used and thrown around that I didn't understand because I was never in the military.  The use of so much military terminology kind of broke the flow of reading, sort of like a speed bump. 

The first part of the book just went on too long for my tastes.  It was a military story for the first 30% of the book.  Then it started to delve into the fantasy aspect of the book.  I was hoping this book would be much more fantasy from the get go.  I understand having to build up to the scene where they cross over, but I think it could have been done with much less. 

Overall, the story was ok.  The writing was not bad, but wasn't great.  It occupied some time for me, but didn't leave any lasting impressions on me.

Monday, January 16, 2017

"The Tamarisk Hunter" by Paolo Bacigalupi

"The Tamarisk Hunter" by Paolo Bacigalupi 

I read this story in Wastelands 2 edited by John Joseph Adams.  The story originally appeared in an environmental journal called High Country News.  

You can read the story for free on his website here: 

Lolo is a tamarisk hunter.  He hunts tamarisk trees and kills them for a small profit and water rations.  Why would the government pay someone to kill trees you might ask?  Because the tamarisk tree sucks up 73,000 gallons of water every year.  Why would that matter someone might ask?  Because there is little water left to go around.  The water that is available is owned by California. 

Lolo has a secret though.  He has figured out a way around the system.  He has figured out how to stay in the hunting business when all the others fail.  He will always be able to support himself through hunting trees, or will he? 

This was an interesting story to read.  What if one state had the foresight to buy rights to all the water or a major portion of water left in the country?  What would that world look like?  it would definitely be a desolate countryside except for the state that bought the water rights.   

It would also give that state leverage over all the other states.  it would allow California to sell water at premium rates to other states, or gain labor for people who need water to survive. 
Paolo B. did a good job of painting the picture of life in a country without free access to water.  He came up with a really innovative way of creating just how important and scarce water really is.  It was an interesting read with a depressing ending. 

“Ass-Hat Magic Spider” by Scott Westerfeld

“Ass-Hat Magic Spider” by Scott Westerfeld 

This story comes from the anthology “The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows” edited by Jonathan Strahan. 

What is most valuable?  If you had to leave and could only take a certain amount of weight with you to start your life over again, what would it be?  This is a story about what a boy cherishes and what he would do to keep what is important to him. 

The boy's family applied and was accepted to fly through space to a planet called Tau.  They are among the colonists to build a civilization and start over.  It will take them 2 years to get there, but due to fuel needs, each person can only bring a specified amount of weight. 

The boy wants to bring along what he calls Charlotte.  Problem is Charlotte is putting him over his specified weight.  So he ends up working out to burn weight off, doesn't drink water to dehydrate himself, and doesn't eat so he won't gain weight.  Anything he can to bring along Charlotte. 

I like the writing style of Scott Westerfeld.  It's very readable.  I honestly didn't expect the ending that came with this story either.  It was a cute way of bringing together the old and the new.  That will make more sense after reading the story.  A very clever idea for a story about the future to boot. 

The ending was cute.  The story ended with a warm and fuzzy feeling that just made you want to go and pick up that thing you had from childhood and think back to all the memories you had with it.

All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...