John Joseph Adams

Books: Fantasy | Editor


By Blood We Live (2009), The Way of the Wizard (2010), The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013)

By Blood We Live (2009) edited by John Joseph Adams

Publisher: Night Shade Books

The Way of the Wizard (2010) edited by John Joseph Adams

way_of_the_wizardI love anthologies. They give me an escape in bite size pieces that won't keep me up past my bed time on a work night, and they also often a wonderful introduction to authors I have not read previously.

This anthology focuses upon wizards of all sorts, doing wizardly things, though not very many evil wizards.

 The anthology starts with George R.R. Martin's story "In the Lost Lands".

You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys.

But it is better not to.

The queen should have remembered that before sending Jerais to Gray Alys to ask for something she really shouldn't have. All in all, a good but rather depressing tale. (You'll see that refrain several times. But that's the advantage of an anthology: you can skip stories you don't like.)

In the next story, "Family Tree" by David Barr Kirtley, Simon has escaped his family and built his own home in a tree, but the internecine arguments follow him when he tries to escape. It's a reminder that it's important to learn how to say no to your family.

I'd previously read "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner" by Susanna Clarke in her anthology. It contains many of the things that I liked so much about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

"Well," said Saint Kentigern, cheerfully. "Let me see what I can do. Saints, such as me, ought always to listen attentively to the prayers of poor, dirty, ragged men, such as you. No matter how offensively those prayers are phrased. You are our special care."

Delia Sherman's story was "Wizard's Apprentice" was another story I'd read previously, but enjoyed just as well the second time through. I like how I thought it was going in one direction, but it then veered off someplace else completely. Also, what's not to like about an evil wizard running a used book store?

Jeffrey Ford's story, "The Sorcerer Minus" was one I didn't care for. The Sorcerer minus is a jerk. I didn't really like spending time reading about him.

"Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet" by C.C. Finlay was one of the stories I just gave up on. I kept putting the whole anthology down because I couldn't get into this one story, so I just moved on.

"Card Sharp" by Rajan Khanna, on the other hand, was a story I very much liked. First, for the idea of a deck of cards being magical and for a card magician calling himself Hoyle. Quentin has a deck of magical cards and one desire: revenge.

Genevieve Valentine's story, "So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen" just didn't work for me. I liked the idea of natural magicians being affected by climate change, but the whole environmentalism thing felt heavy-handed.

In "The Go-Slow" by Nnedi Okorafor, Nkem is a famous actor, but he wants to escape. A drive through a Nigerian go-slow where he was only supposed to go from one side of the city to another, leads to another odd attempt on his life.

I'd never read/heard about Ogbanje before. Still not sure I understand, but I still found it interesting.

The story "Too Fatal a Poison" looks at a tale from the Odyssey. Elpenor dies on Circe's island, and Krista Hoeppner Leahy wonders why.

Also, Odysseus is kind of a jerk.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Robert Silverberg had another magician–or in this case apprentice sorcerer that I really didn't like. Gannin Thidrich has become an apprentice to V. Halabant, and falls in love (so he says) with her.

What a jerk.

"The Secret of Calling Rabbits" by Wendy N. Wagner was a good story that I didn't enjoy. Rugel is a dwarf, who has spent most of his life hiding from the humans who destroyed his village. I think the ending was supposed to be happy, but it didn't feel that way to me at all.

"The Wizards of Perfil" by Kelly Link is another story I'd read previously, in another anthology. Onion and Halsa are chosen (or not) to become apprentices to the wizards of Perfil. This story made more sense to me the second time through, but it's still rather depressing.

"How to Sell the Ponti Bridge" by Neil Gaiman. I don't know why I'm so fond of story about rogues. I don't like them very much in real life (at least I don't like the ones I've met) but they're so fun to read about.

"The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories" by Christie Yant was another depressing tale. Just not for me I suppose.

Mike Resnick's tale about Merlin, "Winter Solstice" was another thoroughly depressing ta'e. Merlin lives backwards in time, so other people's memories are his future. He also seems to be developing dementia.

In The Trader and the Slave by Cinda Williams Chima, Linda is an enslaved enchanter. Garlock is her master, and a Trader, but the deal is never in the client's favor. I liked this one despite the horridness of the slavery.

Cerile and the Journeyer by Adam-Troy Castro was another depressing story. I liked the Baba Yaga-esque bits of the desert and forest and wall appearing, but jeesh. Be happy with what you have.

In "Counting the Shapes" by Yoon Ha Lee, Biantha's magic is based upon mathematics. It's an interesting–if confusing–idea.

I did like the king, though.

"Considering the current state of affairs, I'd have to declare a chain of succession down to the apprentice cook. If anyone survives, they can argue over it. My advisors can rule by council until then."

I didn't much care for "Endgame" by Lev Grossman, mostly because it seemed like such a waste to use magic for nothing more than playing games.

"Street Wizard" by Simon R. Green didn't disappoint, even though it's not a John Taylor story. He rarely fails to make me laugh, such as with a passage like this.

I make a stop at the biggest Chinese Christian Church in London, and chat with the invisible Chinese demon that guards the place from trouble-makers and unbelievers. It enjoys the irony of protecting a Church that officially doesn't believe in it. And since it gets to eat anyone who tries to break in, it's quite happy. The Chinese have always been a very practical people.

"Mommy Issues of the Dead" by T.A. Pratt is a Marla Mason story, from when Marla was learning to be a better sorceror.

"One-Click Banishment" by Jeremiah Tolbert took an idea that I've been espousing for years and years.

And then the doc runs back to legal-speak standard bullshit. One paragraph of pure contractual evil buried in legal cruft. Clever. Nobody ever reads the user agreement text before checking the box and continuing. I've heard people joke that we were giving away our souls in the damned things, but I'd never seen anyone actually try it.

Of course, my theory is that companies aren't greedy–they only take a little portion of your soul every time you read through without clicking. But with as much software as I've installed in my life, I'm sure I'm in hock.

I've actually had Johannes Cabal the Necromancer on my wish list for awhile. "The Ereshkigal Working" by Jonathan L. Howard is a short story set before the novel. I'm well-known for my dislike of zombies, but this did amuse me.

"Feeding the Feral Chidren" by David Farland was another strike out for me. Huang Fa wants to gain Yan's hand in marraige as well as her love, but upon his return to her, he falls afoul of a magician.

I shouldn't have liked "The Orange-Tree Sacrifice" by Vylar Kaftan. Magicians are torturing a girl to death, but little do they know, she dedicated her death to the Goddess. But I found it very hopeful.

"Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear" by Desirina Boskovich. Also not for me.

"El Regalo" by Peter S. Beagle was a nice relief after the darker stories. Angie is terribly annoyed by her younger brother Marvyn, age 8. When Marvyn becomes a witch, he gets even more annoying, but sometimes useful.

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin was another interesting albeit terribly depressing story.

Festin is trapped by an evil wizard who seeks to overwhelm and destroy the territory Festing protects.

"The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria" by John R. Fultz was also not for me. It felt far more like a schizophrenic break than a fantasy story, which felt–not fun.

"The Secret of the Blue Star" by Marion Zimmer Bradley I've read several times before, and now I really really want to re-read "Thieves' World" even though Lythande is nowhere near to my favorite character from that series.

There were multiple stories I didn't care for, but on the whole, I found it a good and enjoyable collection. After all, I don't have to read the stories I don't like.

Published by Prime Books

Rating: 7/10

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013) edited by John Joseph Adams

This is the third anthology I've read by John Joseph Adams, and I must say that he has a good rack record for creating anthologies with stories I really like. He also has a good mix of stories, some of which I am guaranteed not to like, but that's okay, because it's good to read stuff I don't normally read, and if I really don't like a story, I can always skip on to the next (even though I rarely do that).

The stories I liked best in this anthology were the straight-up cackling Evil Overlord sort (you know that list, right?), because they were funny. The ones I liked least tended to be the more serious ones, because, well, evil in its true form exists in the world, and it's generally funny at all.

"Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List" by Austin Grossman starts the anthology. Professor Incognito is writing a letter of apology to his fiancee for when she discovers his secret evil lair. I liked this because it was one of the Evil Overlord stories.

Harry Turtledove's story "Father of the Groom" was another funny story, riffing off the whole idea of Bridezilla.

Now, bridesmaids' dresses could piss off a saint. And if you are currently visualizing a pissed-off saint in a bridesmaid's dress, you are indeed the kind of person for whom this tale is intended, you poor sorry sod, you.

I liked this one quite a bit as well.

"Laughter at the Academy: A FIELD STUDY IN THE GENESIS OF SCHIZOTYPAL CREATIVE GENIUS PERSONALITY DISORDER (SCGPD) by Seanan McGuire takes a look at the evil genius personality type–as well as what researchers will do to get their work published.

"Letter to the Editor" by David D. Levine is another evil genius explaining why he's not really evil.

In real life, the most important moments in science are not greeted by the exclamation "Eureka!" but by a puzzled frown and the words "That's funny…"

Mind you, "that's funny" is very different from "Watch this!"

It also rings quite true. I mean really, Superman IS an illegal alien.

"Instead of a Loving Heart" by Jeremiah Tolbert is one of the stories told from the point of view of the evil overlords minions. It's one of the sad stories, although not one of the horrible ones I disliked.

"The Executor" by Daniel H. Wilson was one of the dystopias and not particularly an evil genius story. As I dislike dystopias, this story was not for me.

"The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan" by Heather Lindsley is the story of a woman who counsels super villains. I quite liked this one. Plus, it has the line, "His grin is as infectious as a well-designed bio-weapon." Who can resist that?!

David Farland's story "Homo Perfectus" was another of the stories I didn't care for. Pretty much any story where I thought, "what a dick" about the main character was one I didn't like. There's evil, and then there's assholes. I really don't like assholes.

"Ancient Equations" by L. A. Banks is the story of a genius who has set himself aside from the world, in hopes of saving the world. It also has the PERFECT line.

(rot 13) ‘"Lbh zbgureshpxref ner nyy gur fnzr. Lbh jnag fbzr nff naq gura lbh jnaan tb gnxr bhg gur thlf jub hfrq gb trg nyy gur onorf."‘

Alan Dean Foster's story "Rural Singularity" isn't an evil overlord story at all. It isn't even a mad genius story in vein of the other stories, but instead is the story of a journalist going out to cover a story on two headed chickens and finding a hidden genius instead.

"Captain Justice Saves the Day" by Genevieve Valentine was another of my favorites. Again, we see the Evil Genius from the point of view of one of his minions.

It seems something is wrong with your address book because you erased it trying to password— protect it. I am on my way in to repopulate your address book from my computer. Please do not try to fix it until I get there.

For obvious reasons, this cracked me up. That scenario went exactly as expected.

Theodora Goss's story "The Mad Scientist's Daughter" is the tale of the daughters of famous madmen: Dr Frankenstein, Dr Moreau, Dr Jekyll, etc. They live together because, as the author notes, "Science does not pay well; mad science pays even worse."

"The Space Between" by Diana Gabaldon was one of the stories that disappointed me. I've liked her other short stories very much, but with this one, I felt like I was missing something–backstory perhaps? I liked the characters of Joan and Michael, but the bad guy–I just didn't understand him, what he was doing, and what he was looking for.

"Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution" by Carrie Vaughn was a fun steampunk romp. Harry and Marlowe are visiting Doctor Carlisle, who has been under house arrest at his castle since The Incident. Harry believes he has been up to something, but wants proof. I liked both characters and I liked the story idea but I also liked that it was a well done short story.

"Blood and Stardust" by Laird Barron is another story from the point of view of the mad scientist's minion, in this case, a created minion, who eventually learns and develops a conscience, of sorts, of her own. I quite liked this story.

"A More Perfect Union" by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is the story of a mad political scientist. Not one of my favorite stories, but that's possible because it was pretty much a dystopia.

"Rocks Fall" was unexpected, in that it didn't feel like a Naomi Novik story. A super hero and super villain are trapped by a rock fall, and this is their conversation while they are trapped. I liked the story , even if I found it rather depressing.

Mary Robinette Kowal‘s story "We Interrupt This Broadcast" is set right after WWII, in an alternate history where Dewey DID defeat Truman. I didn't find the end particularly surprising, but I liked it just the same.

I generally like Marjorie M. Liu‘s short stories, and I enjoyed "The Last Dignity of Man". An accident of naming makes Alexander Luthor become obsessed with Superman, and the forces of good or evil in the world. There were so very many lines in this story that I liked.

It is not enough to say one supports science. The real test is to see the finished product, fat and glistening, and not flinch.

I think those to sentences sum up many of the stories here–that evil men aren't necessarily evil, but are sometimes men doing what they believe needs to be done to make the world a better place.

I really really liked this story–it's one of my favorites from this anthology.

"The Pittsburgh Technology" by Jeffrey Ford is a sad sort of story.

"Why is it The Pittsburgh Technology?"

"Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?"

I think that sums of the story pretty well.

"Mofongo Knows" by Grady Hendrix was on I did not care for. Mofongo is a genius gorilla trapped as a side-show freak. It was just as sad and depressing as that sounds.

"The Food Taster's Boy" by Ben Winters was the concluding story, and probably my least favorite story. C. is a despot who rules absolutely. He feels very much like Sadaam Hussein, only worse. Why why why end the anthology on such a dark and depressing note? I don't LIKE ending a book with a feeling of despair and misery.

Aside from the anthology ending on several depressing notes, this was all-in-all a varied and very good collection of stories, with something for everyone. After all, the stories I disliked were not bad, they were just not my type of story.

Published by Tor Books

Rating: 8/10