Monday, February 27, 2017

"The Extinction of Fairytales" by Jacob M. Appel

"The Extinction of Fairytales" by Jacob M. Appel 

This story comes from the collection "Scouting for the Reaper" written by Jacob M. Appel. 

Zooom... We're heading back to 1967.  A professional fairytale folklorist, Edie Cosgrove, gets an insurance payout from her parents death.  With the money she decides to buy a house in the suburbs.  Upon the first few days, on a Tuesday, that she is moving into the house a black man comes knocking on her door.  When she answers the door the man introduces himself as Sammy.  He is there to cut her grass. 

She assumes that he has been cutting the grass for the previous owner of the house and decides to keep Sammy on as the landscaper.  They come to an agreement on price for his work and he sets about cutting her grass.  Every Tuesday for 37 years Sammy came to her house, without fail, to take care of her landscaping needs.  She comes to rely on Sammy for certain things around her house and eventually in her life.  Then one Tuesday Sammy doesn't show up.  She has no idea what to do and realizes that in 37 years she knows practically nothing about him more than his first name.  What to do, what to do? 

This story was a fun read.  Edie Cosgrove researched fairytales for a living.  She traveled around the world to find fairytales from all over and then went about documenting them.  That in itself was an interesting point of the story.  That is an interesting character to come up with and an interesting profession to have for the story.  The profession and personality goes hand in hand with the theme of this story. 

I like how he wrote the characters of this story.  They were three dimensional and had complexities.  They didn't seem flat even for a short story.  Edie was a crack up; a typical feisty old woman.  She had fun at her neighbor's expense. 

The conflict was just right for a story like this.  There was tension about where Sammy could have gone and tension with her neighbors.  Also due to Sammy not being around.  You could feel the chaos in Edie's life as she went around her day to day in a fog not sure what to do about Sammy. 

Overall, this was a good read.  I enjoyed it and the story went by very quickly for me.  Yes I know it's a short story, but even those can be written so well you don't realize how fast you read the story.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"Wonders To Come" by Christopher Fowler

"Wonders To Come" by Christopher Fowler 

This story comes from the anthology "Dead Letters" edited by Conrad Williams. 

Where to begin with this story.  The story was a bit out there, but so what.  What fantasy or sci-fi story isn't out there, some more than others.  The story lacked a few things.  It had all the right ingredients for a good story, but somewhere someone forgot to put in some salt and the story came out tasting bland and it was no good. 

A hotel is about to be unveiled for the grand opening.  The hotel being unveiled is state of the art.  Everything in the hotel is the latest and greatest all the way down to the sewage system.  The sewage system is so state of the art that they believe only one man is needed to control the systems of water and sewage for the hotel.  Of course this leads to all kinds of problems. 

Introduce some weird alien life form here.  We don't know where it comes from or what it wants, or if it is even alive and a life form at all.  They are all over the place.  Just as these are discovered guess what happens, the hotel starts shutting down.  Everything starts to collapse upon itself as if it were hacked by the best and brightest minds in the world just to cause the hotel havoc. 

This story in my estimation has nothing to do with the anthology.  The anthology was supposed to be about mail, undeliverable, missing, tragic, etc.  They mentioned the royal mail one time during this story.  I don't believe that counts.  I can't believe this story was even added to this anthology. 

This story was definitely one of the downers of the anthology.  As I've said before and will say again many many times I'm sure, all the collections have some.  You have your fantastic ones and your duds.  This story was a dud.  Hopefully the next story will redeem this one. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Rods and Cones" by Jacob M Appel

"Rods and Cones" by Jacob M Appel 

This story comes from the collection "Scouting for the Reaper" by Jacob M. Appel. 

Ok, so every author has that one book that didn't do so well, and every collection has a couple stories that just don't make the cut compared to the others.  This was one of those stories.  Compared to the other stories in the collection this has been my least favorite of them all. 

A husband and wife own a rabbit.  After watching the rabbit for a little bit they decide the rabbit has gone blind.  The husband is calm, cool, and collect and offers the suggestion of taking the rabbit to the vet and then waiting to see what is said.  The wife has other ideas. 

The wife is so worried about her rabbit and the rabbit going blind that every day while her husband is at work she tries a different avenue to find out what's wrong with the rabbit.  Everything from taking the rabbit to the vet, getting cat scans, and even taking the rabbit to a holistic healer.  All to no avail. 

Although the story centers around the rabbit, what the story really gets at is the relationship between the husband and the wife.  The wife has minor seizures from time to time and can't drive anywhere and is dependent upon other people.  This I think leads her to feel a little insecure with herself.  She feels the need to project this upon the rabbit.  She also projects her anger about the husbands lack of caring at him.  This is really what I feel the author was getting at with the theme of this story.  How one woman uses the rabbit as a coping mechanism and how it could bring two people together, or even apart. 

Not a bad read overall, but not my favorite of this collection.  The other stories were so much better in my opinion.  That doesn't mean I think this story is bad.  I just don’t think this story is as good as the others in this particular collection, but definitely better than some stories I've read from other collections and anthologies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids" by Seanan McGuire

"The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids" by Seanan McGuire 

This story comes from the anthology "Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales" edited by Ellen Datlow. 

This was a an interesting story.  A girl named Brenda, has special needs and circumstances.  Somewhere around autism and obsessive compulsion disorder.  She has a mother who loves her, a little half-brother she adores, and a step-father who despises her.  She doesn't have any friends, but it doesn't matter much because she spends all her time looking for patterns. 

She see mathematical patterns in everything around her, but especially in the corvids, which is a bird in the crow family. She sees mathematical rhymes and patterns based on how many corvids she counts that day.  Each number corresponds to a certain word or meaning. The number one means the same thing each time, as does two, three, four, and so forth.  She determines what sort of day it will be based on how many corvids she has counted before she leaves for school. This particular day before she leaves for school she counts nine corvids.  Nine is the number of hell.  She doesn't see it being a good day. 

This story follows Brenda around as she lives with this obsessive nature and her constant endeavor to discover what all the numbers mean.  She only has figured out what so many of the numbers mean and the rhymes that are associated with them.  She spends the story wanting to discover the secret of the numbers.  She wants to know what will happen if she counts eighteen, nineteen, or even twenty corvids.  Then one day it happens, and she counts twenty corvids.  All hell breaks loose. 

I found this story to be completely different than normal stories.  The style in which Seanan McGuire used for this story was absolutely perfect.  It was told through thoughts, and actions with repercussions.  The thoughts were intimate and chaotic.  The actions were her madness with a method.  The repercussions... Well, the repercussions are disastrous. 

If you enjoy a different sort of story with a different kind of feel you will enjoy this story immensely.  It will have you turning the page over and over just to see what will happen next.  Because eventually you too will endeavor to find out what the pattern is, and what the rhyme is, and what will happen if all hell breaks loose.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"The Obscure Bird" by Nicholas Royle

"The Obscure Bird" by Nicholas Royle 

This was, besides the opening poem, the opening story to editor Ellen Datlow's latest anthology "Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales." 

What an opening story to an anthology.  Based on what the anthology is about and what Ellen Datlow promises in her introduction this story encompasses all the different elements of the anthology.  There is a subtle darkness to this story that slowly boils to full on darkness. 

A husband, wife, and baby son, live next to old railroad tracks that will soon be demolished and rebuilt for a new train system.  The husband likes to explore the overgrown tracks and look at the ecosystem that has been created from nature and time. 

Slowly, as time passes, the wife starts to see small changes in the husband.  Sleeping patterns change, attitudes change, things just aren't the way they used to be.  Then one night the darkness comes on and the horrible happens. 

I really dug this story, especially, as previously mentioned, as an opening to the anthology.  I really felt the darkness of the story, the mystery surrounding everything, and most important the avian aspect of the story.  This story had it all and hit a brilliant climax at the end.

Friday, February 3, 2017

"The Goddess's Choice" by Jamie Marchant

"The Goddess's Choice" by Jamie Marchant 

This is the story of a young man from the country and a young princess in need of a consort to rule the kingdom.  The young country boy, Robbie, or Robrek, lives with his father and brother on a farm in the kings lands.  The princess, Samantha, lives in the castle with the king and is trying her best not to marry anyone just because she has too. 

Robbie is an outcast from his family and the town he lives in.  The town thinks he is a demon, as does his father and his brother.  Robbie's mother died upon giving birth to him and his father has never forgiven him for that.  His dark skin and green eyes give people the impression that he is a demon.  No one will be his friend and hardly anyone will even talk to him. 

On top of a town that thinks Robbie comes from the Seven Hells his father and brother beat him on a constant basis over any little thing he does.  His father beats his back with a strap while his brother holds him down and his brother beats him to a pulp with his friends just for being different. 

Part of what makes Robbie different, other than his looks, is his magical ability.  He has the ability to heal and communicate with animals.  This also leads people to believe he is a demon as no one else has this ability.  However, his being a demon never stops the local townsfolk from asking his help to cure their livestock when they are sick or injured.  

During one of his visits to a livestock fair with his father he meets a young girl and they spend the entire day together.  This girl ends up being Samantha in disguise.  She knows nothing of what the local townsfolk thinks of him and sees him for just who he is and falls in love with him.  Robbie also falls in love with her and spends his days dreaming of her. 

After they meet is really where the story begins.  The beginning was a bit slow for my tastes as it was a lot of background information, but not horrible to read.  Just a bit slow.  Your introduced to the main characters and get some background information on each of them and see where they are coming from. 

During the story, but especially after Robbie and Samantha meet, the political intrigue is introduced.  This adds a great deal of tension to the story and I found it to be pretty well done.  The politics added a great addition to the overarching love story of the book.  There were a few times where I felt the tension while reading and had to finish the chapter just to find out what would happen next. 
One thing that bugged me a little bit was where the scene breaks occurred.  I felt there were too many scene breaks in places they didn't need to be.  They broke up a scene into smaller pieces that didn't need to be broken up.  What that ended up doing was screwing up the pace of the scene for me and caused some pacing issues with me.  I would be reading along and then scene break, only to have the next sentence continue with the previous scene.  A small thing, but I felt that the scene breaks could have been handled a little bit better. 

The characters were fairly done.  They each had their own voice and personality.  What each character said and, or, did matched their personality.  Sometimes the dialogue was a bit generic, but overall it still worked.  I didn't feel that the characters were flat or just melted into the background. 

One minor thing that kind of bugged me with the characters were how one character in particular was introduced well into the book.  They seem to come out of nowhere and then just as fast as they were introduced the chapter was done.  Then you didn't hear about them again until very much later into the story.   

Another thing I noticed that would of helped me is a few more character tags.  There were some scenes that were hard to follow the dialogue because I wasn't sure who was saying what all the time.  A few extra tags on who was saying what would have been helpful to me while reading.  Sometimes I had to reread a section a couple times to fully understand who was saying what. 

Over all the pace of the book was good.  I don't have any major complaints.  There were a few parts of the book that seemed to slow down everything, but it would pick up not too long after and everything would be ok.  The speed of the book really picked up toward the end of the book.  It felt like the last quarter of the book just flew by as opposed to the previous three-quarters that just seemed to pass by. 

I liked the love story.  That is essentially what this story was.  It was the story of a young man and young woman or against all odds are destined to be together.  Also a young country boy who is destined for greatness, but doesn't know it until the end of the story.  Typical fantasy tropes, but they are topes that I love to read about in fantasy books.  If they are done right, they work and I felt that this story did it well enough.  I enjoyed the story. 

I felt this book was a great opening book to a fantasy trilogy.  There were a few rough spots as are some indie authored books, but nothing that couldn't easily be overlooked.  I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.  Overall this was a very well done fantasy story. 

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  ...