benpayne (ex_benpayne119) wrote in lastshortstory,

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Ralph Malph and the Dream of the Prancing Potsies

Another week's reading in the bag...

I finished the Solaris Book of New SF, and I'd like to reiterate my former enthusiasm. Most of the reviews I've read of this anthology have been mixed, but I thought it was excellent. Not perfect, by any means, but it provided a high percentage of above-average stories. The anthology is supposed to serve as a kind of calling-card for the Solaris range of books, and if that's the case we can expect to be blessed with a lot of intelligent, readable and politically relevant SF in the years to come.

From the second half, there were three stories that stood out.

The Wedding Party by Simon Ings is a truly horrific SF story of people-smuggling in the future. What it lacks in likeable characters and warmth it makes up for in anger and awfulness. Not a gentle bedtime read, but a story that's relevant and all-too-possible.

Another topical story is Tony Ballantyne's Third Person. This story takes the notion of surgical strikes and smart weapons to extremes, with wartime combatants roaming and doing battle among civilians throughout cities in Europe. For the soldiers, the chief concern is the need to recruit new volunteers, and they have come up with an underhanded way of doing so. I won't spoil the story by detailing this, but will say that I found it to be a very clever metafictional metaphor used to comment on our attitudes to warfare. My favorite story in the anthology. Highly recommended.

The anthology finishes with Eric Brown's The Farewell Party. Earth has come into contact with an alien race, and subsequently become immortal. Those who die are reborn in space, and free to return to Earth or to roam the cosmos. The Farewell Party deals with a small group of people in a small town, their own dealings with the aliens, and the possible implications for them and for Earth. A nicely written story with a good mood.

Another story I enjoyed was Sarah Monette's Amante Doree from Paradox #10. Paradox is a magazine of alternate history, and this story is set in New Orleans in a previous century, and deals with a courtesan spy with a secret. I'm not familiar enough with New Orleans history to know exactly how much liberty has been taken with it here. But I found the background very believable and fascinating, and it was this backdrop, rather than the story itself, that really made this tale memorable for me. 

I'm working my way rather slowly through Interfictions, not because it's bad but because I'm enjoying it. This week I read and enjoyed A Drop of Raspberry by Csilla Kleinheincz. It's a love story of sorts, but not. The protagonist is a lake. I found it a sweet, touching little story about friendships and love.

Another market I've enjoyed recently was the April issue of Baen's Universe, in particular the fantasy section.

You can read my (positive) review of Garth Nix's story Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go to War Again at the ASif website here.

K.D. Wentworth's Midnight at the Quantum Cafe continues the author's recent exploration into alternate realities, as seen in her recent F&SF story. I actually prefered this story to that one, only slightly, because it had a little more intrigue. It tells of a man who frequents a cafe where alternate versions of people are drawn, and his encounters with an ex-girlfriend and a couple of other regulars. A story that carries the reader along trying to figure out what's happening, but also leaves something to think about. 

Redemption of Nepheli by E. Sedia is a fairly straightforward story of a city at war, and the city leader who must call on the man he imprisoned many years ago to save them from catastrophe. At heart, it's a personal story, dealing with the protagonist's attempts to come to terms with his past actions, and to re-analyse and question his decisions. Ultimately, it's not the magic or the armed conflict that makes this story work, but the central character's internal dilemma, and the depth with which both central characters are drawn.

I don't think I've linked yet to my review of the June Clarkesworld over at Tangent. It contains my comments on another story that I liked, Paul Tremblay's There's No Light Between Floors. The story's free to read online, here.

Last of all, for this week, I enjoyed Stephen Kotowych's Borrowed Time from the Daw anthology Under Cover of Darkness. I've been nonplussed by most of the Daw anthology stuff I've read so far, but this story about a relationship and a man who steals time, and what he does with it, stood out above the rest as well characterised, with a clever central idea.

Until next week, then!

Peace out.

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