Anthology Review: Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu KabuKabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This anthology is a collection of short mostly speculative stories with tinges of sci-fi, fantasy, folktale and the supernatural. A few come from the same world in which a few individuals have the ability to fly. These are excerpts from the author’s unpublished novel. Many fall short of feeling fully developed, resting instead at vignette status. None stand far above or below the rest.

One commonality throughout the collection is Nigeria as a background, often with American narrators. The uneasy pairing of Nigerian and American interests and values is the greatest strength to the anthology.

I rated and reviewed all of the component short stories to this collection:
     “Asunder”–4 stars
     “The Baboon War”–3 stars
     “Bakasi Man”–3 stars
     “Biafra”–2 stars
     “The Black Stain”–2 stars
     “The Carpet”–2 stars
     “The Ghastly Bird”–2 stars
     “The House of Deformities”–3 stars
     “How Inyang Got Her Wings”–3 stars
     “Icon”–3 stars
     [w/ Alan Dean Foster]–“Kabu Kabu”–2 stars
     “Long Juju Man”–2 stars
     “The Magical Negro”–2 stars
     “Moom!”–2 stars
     “On the Road”–2 stars
     “The Palm Tree Bandit”–3 stars
     “The Popular Mechanic”–2 stars
     “Spider the Artist”–4 stars
     “Tumaki”–3 stars
     “The Winds of Harmattan”–2 stars
     “Windseekers”–2 stars

Also by this author, I’ve previously read:
     “Hello, Moto”–2 stars
     Binti [Binti, #1]–4 stars
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2016 edited by Paula Guran

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy NovellasThe Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a high caliber annual anthology without a weak story in the bunch. The diversity of the stories ranging from sci-fi to urban fantasy to fantasy is matched by the narrative depth achieved within the novella form. As promised, these are the best of the best.

My favorite, meriting 5 stars, was Usman T. Malik’s novella, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, which blends urban fantasy with a supernatural folktale to explore the generational effects of immigration as a Pakistani-American goes in search of the Old World family history that’s eluded him.

I’ve reviewed and rated all of the included stories:
Cooney, C. S. E.–The Bone Swans of Amandale–3 stars
de Bodard, Aliette–The Citadel of Weeping Pearls–4 stars
Okorafor, Nnedi–Binti [Binti, #1]–4 stars
Parker, K. J.–The Last Witness–4 stars
Pollack, Rachel–Johnny Rev–4 stars
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn–Inhuman Garbage [Retrieval Artist universe]–3 stars
Scholz, Carter–Gypsy–4 stars
Shu, Bao [w/ Ken Liu, trans.]–What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear–3 stars

This anthology is highly recommended.

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Anthology Review: Abbreviated Epics Edited by Juliana Rew

Abbreviated EpicsAbbreviated Epics by Juliana Rew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This brief anthology of 20 extremely short pieces dubbed “epics” spans fantasy, various folklores, and sci-fi. Few of the tales are long enough for any truly satisfactory development. The standouts are either deeply moving are extraordinarily well grounded, or both.

My favorite tale, meriting 5 stars, is Deborah Walker’s “Beyond the Turning Orrery”. It’s a breathtaking work of beautiful prose in which a highly compromised narrator cannot fully comprehend the full extent to which his tiny steampunk world is contrived:

I picked a copper cricket out of the grass, and held it to my ears listening to the small tick of its tiny internal springs.

“If we’re wound, who winds us?” asked Dom.

I touched his chest. “How can you deny that?” I thumped his chest a little harder. I was afraid for him, and that made me scared.

My honorable mentions each receiving 4 stars are:
–Daniel Coble’s “Assault on the Summit” which extrapolates on the Lovecraftian mythos of Tibet’s Leng plateau. In the most remote locations, unknown and possibly alien cultures and beings preserve their sequestered way of life.
–Marissa James’ “The Blue Cup” confronts the uneasy relationship between a childhood fantasy and adult reality.
–Adria Laycraft’s “The Perfection of the Steam-Powered Armour”, set in a steampunk samurai society, this tale pits a tinkerer and his young son up against the powerful politics that undervalue his small family’s lives.

I rated and reviewed all of the component tales. Also included are:
Bondoni, Gustavo–“Rain Over Lesser Boso”–3 stars
Clark, Martin–“Through the Ocular, Darkly”–3 stars
Coate, Steve–“Fortunate Son”–3 stars
Gallagher, Siobhan–“Blade Between Oni and Hare”–3 stars
Harold, Elliotte Rusty–“Refusing the Call”–3 stars
McBain, Alison–“The Lost Children”–3 stars
Solomon, Ben–“Damfino Plays for Table Stakes”–3 stars
Teeny, Jake–“Toward the Back”–3 stars
Bowne, Patricia S.–“Great Light’s Daughters”–2 stars
Dunn, Robin Wyatt–“On a Train With a Coyote Ghost”–2 stars
Ishbel, Iain–HMS Invisible and the Halifax Slaver”–2 stars
Moore, Jordan Ashley–“A Wolf is Made”–2 stars
Rogers, Stephen D.–“Qinggong Ji”–2 stars
Tenser, Margarita–“The Committee”–2 stars
Walton, Jo–“Odin on the Tree”–2 stars
Royal, Manuel–“Heart-Shaped”–1 star
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press

An Unreliable Guide to LondonAn Unreliable Guide to London by M. John Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The flavor of a city is the combination of its neighborhoods and all the stories of the people contained within. This off-kilter collection of tales and vignettes highlights many of the peripheral neighborhoods of London. Some stories are fantastical and absurdist, while others present a realistic take on a narrower London experience. Above all, the tales show a wonderful diversity of voice doing much justice to the multi-cultural and international megalopolis that is London.

My absolute favorite tale, which I rated 5-stars, was the profoundly moving “Warm and Toasty” by Yvette Edwards. It’s a tale of hope and humanity with an eye on London’s ethnic history.

I’ve reviewed all of the component tales of the anthology. The rest are:
F., George–“Mother Black Cap’s Revenge”–4 stars
Newland, Courttia–“The Secret Life of Little Wormwood Scrubs”–4 stars
Shukla, Nikesh–“Tayyabs”–4 stars
Singh, Sunny–“In the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden”–4 stars
Thompson, Stephen–“The Arches”–4 stars
Budden, Gary–“Staples Corner”–3 stars
Burrows, Tim–“Broadgate”–3 stars
Caless, Kit–“Market Forces”–3 stars
Godden, Salena–“The Camden Blood Thieves”–3 stars
Jacques, Juliet–“Corridors of Power”–3 stars
Oyedeji, Koye–“Thy Kingdom Come”–3 stars
Rees, Gareth E.–“There is Something Very Wrong with Leyton Mills Retail Park”–3 stars
Schilz, Aki–“Beating the Bounds”–3 stars
Victoire, Stephanie–“Nightingale Lane”–3 stars
Williams, Eley–“In Pursuit of the Swan at Brentford Ait”–3 stars
Aridjis, Chloe–“N1, Centre of Illusion”–2 stars
Ewen, Paul–“Rose’s, Woolrich”–2 stars
Harrison, M. John–“Babies From Sand”–2 stars
Okojie, Irenosen–“Filamo”–2 stars
Wells, Tim–“Heavy Manners”–2 stars
Wiles, Will–“Notes on London’s Housing Crisis”–2 stars
Saro-Wiwa, Noo–“Soft on the Inside”–1 star

I received this anthology directly from Influx Press editor and contributing author, Gary Budden.

 

 

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Anthology Review: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror:2016 edited by Paula Guran

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 EditionThe Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 Edition by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paula Guran [editor] and Prime Books here release another solid anthology in their annual collection of the best dark short fiction. One novella rounds out the short stories covering the horror to thriller to dark fantasy spectrum.

My favorite’s, all earning 5 out of 5 stars, were:
–Angela Slatter’s novella, Ripper, an imaginative supernatural retelling of the unsolved Jack the Ripper tale that brings to light gender inequities and how that may have compromised the investigation.
–Dale Bailey’s short horror tale, “Snow”. A small party of friends survives the opening days of an apocalyptic pandemic only to find themselves ill-prepared to face their inner fears and loss of humanity.
–Priya Sharma’s disturbing modern creature fantasy, “Fabulous Beasts”, which shows a family of transmorphic snake people and their unsettling history of incest, rape, abuse, and survival.

I reviewed every tale included in the anthology. Also included are:
Armstrong, Kelley–“The Door”–4 stars
Black, Holly–“1Up”–4 stars
Jones, Stephen Graham–“Daniel’s Theory About Dolls”–4 stars
Kiernan, Caitlin R.–“The Cripple and Starfish”–4 stars
Kishore, Swapna–“The Absence of Words”–4 stars
Lopresti, Robert–“Street of the Dead House”–4 stars
McGuire, Seanan–“There is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold”–4 stars
Mills, Daniel–“Below the Falls”–4 stars
Muir, Tamsyn–“The Deepwater Bride”–4 stars
Walters, Damien Angelica–“Sing Me Your Scars”–4 stars
Wehunt, Michael–“The Devil Under the Maison Blue”–4 stars
Campbell, Rebecca–“The Glad Hosts”–3 stars
Files, Gemma–“Hairwork”–3 stars
Gaiman, Neil–“Black Dog”–3 stars
Liu, Ken–“Cassandra”–3 stars
Shirley, John–“Windows Underwater”–3 stars
Valente, Catherynne M.–“The Lily and the Horn”–3 stars
Wilson, Kai Ashante–Kaiju maximus: ‘So Various, So Beautiful, So New'”–3 stars
Bulkin, Nadia–“Seven Minutes in Heaven”–2 stars
Hannett, Lisa L.–“A Shot of Salt Water”–2 stars
Langan, John–“Corpsemouth”–2 stars
McDermott, Kirstyn–“Mary, Mary”–2 stars
Ptacek, Kathryn–“The Greyness”–2 stars
Robson, Kelly–“The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill”–2 stars
Samatar, Sofia–“Those”–2 stars
Warren, Kaaron–“The Body Finder”–2 stars
Headley, Maria Dahvana–“The Scavenger’s Nursery”–1 star

I received this anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015.

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Anthology Review: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 by Rich Horton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title promises, this annual anthology solidly delivers. A broad swath of fantasy and science fiction sub-genres fill out the collection with my favorite 4 inclusions, each earning 5 stars, representing widely different fields: Off-Planet Sci-Fi, Artificial Intelligence Sci-Fi, Automaton Steampunk, and Rogue-and-Fae Fantasy. As different as they are, they’re all profoundly moving in their telling of the human condition through non-human and ultra-human means.

Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Little Sisters” dashes traditional notions of gender and sexuality in this brutal tale of war, violence, rape and conquest set among stars and species not exactly human.

Martin L. Shoemaker’s short story, “Today I Am Paul”, depicts an artificially intelligent medical companion bot as it realizes its humanity while helping the family tap into their own as their matriarch struggles with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This Evening’s Performance, a novella by Genevieve Valentine, mirrors the golden age of silent films in its steampunk-tinged tale of automatons displacing actors on the London stages.

C. S. E. Cooney’s novella, The Two Paupers, depicts two starving artists trying to be true to themselves and their friendship despite the machinations of family and life-or-death multidimensional politics. [The Fae do not play nicely.]

I’ve reviewed all of the included tales:
Bear, Elizabeth–“The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”–4 stars
Finlay, C. C.–“Time Bomb Time”–4 stars
Jingfang, Hao [w/ Ken Lui, trans.]–“Folding Beijing”–4 stars
Larson, Rich–“The King in the Cathedral”–4 stars
Ludwigsen, Will–“Acres of Perhaps”–4 stars
McGuire, Seanan–“Hello, Hello”–4 stars
Muir, Tamsyn–“The Deepwater Bride”–4 stars
Nayler, Ray–“Mutability”–4 stars
Bolander, Brooke–“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”–3 stars
Bossert, Gregory Norman–“Twelve and Tag”–3 stars
Dickinson, Seth–“Please Undo This Hurt”–3 stars
Dudak, Andy–“Asymptotic”–3 stars
Ings, Simon–“Drones”–3 stars
Kessel, John–“Consolation”–3 stars
Kritzer, Naomi–“Cat Pictures Please”–3 stars
McDonald, Ian–Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan”–3 stars
Pitkin, Joe–“The Daughters of John Demetrius”–3 stars
Sulway, Nike–“The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club”–3 stars
Barnes, John–“The Last Bringback”–2 stars
Brenchley, Chaz–“The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal”–2 stars
Campbell, Rebecca–“Unearthly Landscape by a Lady”–2 stars
Lee, Yoon Ha–“The Graphology of Hemorrhage”–2 stars
Link, Kelly–“The Game of Smash and Recovery”–2 stars
Ryman, Geoff–“Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or A.I.R.”–2 stars
Valente, Catherynne M.–“The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild”–2 stars
Zinos-Amaro, Alvaro–“Endless Forms Most Beautiful”–2 stars

I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015, also edited Rich Horton.
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran

The Mammoth Book of CthulhuThe Mammoth Book of Cthulhu by Paula Guran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a follow-up to 2015’s New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird, Prime Books and editor Paula Guran released this latest Lovecraftian anthology of new short stories. This is a very even collection with few outshining the rest and none spoiling the bunch.

The best tales each earned 4 of 5 stars:
“In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro” by Usman T. Malik weaves an elaborate tale of terrorism, religion, sexism and urban legend in the modern world.
“Caro in Carno” by Helen Marshall images a fantastical landscape and folktale bringing heart to the process of death.
“Umbilicus” by Damien Angelica Walters depicts a mother’s infinite grief after the inexplicable loss of her 7 y.o. daughter.

Also included are:
Barron, Laird–“A Clutch”–3 stars
Downum, Amanda–“The Sea Inside”–3 stars
Emrys, Ruthanna–“Those Who Watch”–3 stars
Gavin, Richard–“Deep Eden”— 3 stars
Hodge, Brian–“It’s All the Same Road in the End”–3 stars
Langan, John–“Outside the House, Watching for the Crows”–3 stars
McDonald, Sandra–“The Cthulhu Navy Wife”–3 stars
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia–“Legacy of Salt”–3 stars
Partridge, Norman–“Backbite”–3 stars
Schanoes, Veronica–“Variations of Lovecraftian Themes”–3 stars
Shirley, John–“Just Beyond the Trailer Park”–3 stars
Strantzas, Simon–“Alexandra Lost”–3 stars
Wehunt, Michael–“I Do Not Count the Hours”–3 stars
Bulkin, Nadia–“I Believe That We Will Win”–2 stars
Gresh, Lois H.–“In the Sacred Cave”–2 stars
Hannett, Lisa L.–“In Syllables of Elder Seas”–2 stars
Kiernan, Caitlin R.–“The Peddler’s Tale, or Isobel’s Revenge”–2 stars
Lee, Yoon Ha–“Falcon-and-Sparrows”–2 stars
Pugmire, W. H.–“A Shadow of Thine Own Design”–2 stars
Shea, Michael–“An Open Letter to Mister Edgar Allan Poe, From a Fervent Admirer”–2 stars
Webb, Don–“The Future Eats Everything”–2 stars
Wise, A. C.–“I Dress My Lover in Yellow”–2 stars

I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books.
 
 
 
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