Gardner Dozois

Books: Fantasy


Down These Strange Streets (2011), Dangerous Women (2013)

Down These Strange Streets (2011) edited by Gardner Dozois & George R. R. Martin

If you look at the list of authors above, you'll immediately see why I read this series. There are some of my favorite authors here–many of whom write short stories I tend to love. And surprisingly, I loved most of these stories, especially a few by authors I haven't particularly read before.

The first story, Charlaine Harris' "Death by Dahlia" is set in the Sookie Stackhouse world, but features a character who has appeared in previous short stories, Dahlia. I rather enjoy the Dahlia stories, as she's a very different character from Sookie, and has been a vampire for so long she has only a tenuous grasp on humanity. This wasn't one of Charlaine Harris' best short stories, but I did enjoy it.

"The Bleeding Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale is the second story in the collection. I recently red a straight up Joe R. Lansdale mystery, and although this story was set in the same time period, the mystery definitely has a supernatural element. The private detective is asked by an old flame to find her ne'er do well brother. It even references Robert Johnson in this take of a musician's deal with the devil. I quite liked it.

Simon R Green's story, "Hungry Heart" is–unusually–a John Taylor story. Most of his recent short stories have been set in Nightside but featured other characters. Here, John Taylor is back, on his own. This story isn't concretely set in the Nightside timeline, but John is using his powers openly, so one assumes it's later in the timeline. A woman comes to John asking him to help her find her heart, stolen by her mentor. As with everything in the Nightside, nothing is as it seems.

I actually have several of Steven Saylor's books on my shelves, but I haven't gotten around to reading a one of them. After reading "Styx and Stones" I'll try and move one of those books up on my list. Gordianus is traveling to Babylon with the poet Antipater of Sidon to see the wonders of that ancient land. But the hotel where the end up is next to a haunted–something that Gordianus simply doesn't believe.

S.M. Stirling's story "Pain and Suffering" is a police procedural that felt (to me) very different from the usual supernatural story. The protagonist is working against something he doesn't understand–that doesn't make sense. He doesn't like unexplained things, so he continues when he really shouldn't have. I really enjoyed this story.

Carrie Vaughn's story "It's Still the Same Old Story" features Rick the vampire, and I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed her other stories involving Rick. Kitty makes no appearance here, although the story is set in her world. This is a story of revenge served cold, but also looks (as do her other stories about Rick) at how it would be to watch the mortals around you die while you remain unchanged. Again, another very good story.

I hadn't heard of Conn Iggulden, and initially wasn't sure of his story, "The Lady Is a Screamer." The main character is a small-time grifter who claims to see ghosts and then actually stumbles upon the real thing. Despite being unsure at the start, I really REALLY liked this story and where it went. Here's another author to add to my list.

Laurie R. King's story "Hellbender" is set in a future where a scientist has created humans from mixed DNA. The main mystery is one of finding a SalaMan who has disappeared, but it also looks at what society might do if mixed species humans were created, and even how the court system might deal with them. I think I enjoyed the ideas brought up by the story more than I did the mystery itself, but it was still well worth reading.

I'm still not sure how I feel about Melinda M. Snodgrass' story "No Mystery, No Miracle." I felt like I was missing something of the past of the charcters and like I was spending the entire story trying to catch up. I'd also, weirdly enough, been discussing hobo signs the day before I read the story, which predisposed my interest I suppose.

The story "The Difference Between a Puzzle and a Mystery" by M. L. N. Hanover was another police procedural (which I almost always like) but it had some lovely twists that I very much liked.

I felt like I really wanted to like Lisa Tuttle's story, "The Curious Affair of the Deodand" but to me, it weirdly felt like the author was trying too hard to make it a Sherlock Holmes story (in fact, Holmes and Watson are mentioned). It was interesting, and I enjoyed the mystery, but something felt… off.

I know lots and lots of people who love Diana Gabaldon, but I somehow got it into her head that she wrote time-travel stories, which I simply dislike. This was not a time travel story, but instead a zombie story set in Jamaica at a time when British slavery was still legal. There were allusions to past events, but I didn't feel like I was missing too much–those allusions were, instead, a prod to read more about these characters.

"In Red, with Pearls" by Patricia Briggs is set in the world of Mercy Thompson and features two characters from that series, Kyle and Warren, that I very much like, so I'm glad to see them get their own story. Kyle is a human lawyer. Warren is his werewolf partner who has just started working as a PI for Kyle's firm. When a zombie shows up looking for Kyle, they have to call in Elizaveta to both clean up the mess and help them figure out what the hell is happening. Here's hoping for more stories about Kyle and Warren,

Bradley Denton's story "The Adakian Eagle" piqued my interest because in the past year I read another mystery also based upon Raymond Chandler's time spent in Alaska / with the Aleutians during WWII. This is really an interesting historical tidbit that I guess I'm surprised hasn't come up more frequently. Aside from Raymond Chandler and the Aleutians, that's where parallels to the other story end. In this case a young man seems to be at the mercy of his Lt Col, and a strange discovery leads him to work with a Private named Pops. I quite enjoyed this story as well.

All in all, I found this to be a fabulous anthology, and I highly recommend almost all the stories I read–even the ones I didn't love were, for the most part, interesting.

Published by Penguin

Rating: 9/10

Dangerous Women (2013) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner DozoisDangerous-Women

There are a lot of different stories here–on purpose.

Dangerous Women was conceived of as a cross-genre anthology, one that would mingle every kind of fiction, so we asked writers from every genre— science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, horror, paranormal romance, men and women alike— to tackle the theme of "dangerous women,"

Thus I was fully expecting there to be a number of stories I wouldn't particularly like, or would even skip. And there were. Unfortunately for me, the dislikes were higher in number than the likes, and there were several dystopias, which I really dislike. And a lot of the women were in the neutral to evil category of dangerous. Which is fine, but all that dark got a bit overwhelming, which is why I took several months for me to finish this anthology.

"Some Desperado" (Red Country story) by Joe Abercrombie is a Western. Not for me.

"My Heart is Either Broken" by Megan Abbott is a mystery, and was really depressing.

"Nora's Song" by Cecelia Holland is an historical, the main character one of the daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Just another reminder as to why I am very glad I live in the future and not the past.

"The Hands That Are Not There" by Melinda Snodgrass was SF, which is not my thing.

"Bombshells" (Harry Dresden story) by Jim Butcher is a story with Molly as the main lead. I generally like the Harry Dresden short stories, but didn't care of this one. I don't think Jim Butcher's strength is writing female characters.

"Raisa Stepanova" by Carrie Vaughn is an historical, and one a especially liked. It's the story of the Russian fighter pilots of World War II, we get a bit of Liliia Litviak, which was an amazing (and real) woman.

"Wrestling Jesus" by Joe R. Lansdale starts as a story of a young boy wanted to keep himself from getting beat up, and turns into a story of an old man and the woman he spent his life loving. It was an interesting story.

"Neighbors" by Megan Lindholm was an urban fantasy, and although it was a little odd, I ended up liking it.

"I Know How to Pick 'Em" by Lawrence Block was a mystery of sorts, but mostly about the man, rather than the woman. Not my thing.

"Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell" by Brandon Sanderson was straight up fantasy, and took a bit to get into, but I ended up liking it. It's about a woman who does what she needs to survive and protect her daughter. I quite liked Silence.

"A Queen in Exile" by Sharon Kay Penman is an historical about the mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick. A bit confusing, but one I liked.

"The Girl in the Mirror" (Magicians story) by Lev Grossman was set in his existing world, and I felt rather lost reading it. It wasn't bad, but I think I was missing a lot.

"Second Arabesque, Very Slowly" by Nancy Kress is a dystopia, and I read it but really didn't like it.

"City Lazarus" by Diana Rowland was part mystery and part dystopia and I didn't much care for it.

"Virgins" (Outlander story) by Diana Gabaldon I believe that the only characters in Diana Gabaldon's universe that I like are those connected to Lord John.

"Hell Hath No Fury" by Sherilynn Kenyon is supernatural fantasy, and a tale of putting a folk tale / legend to rest. Not really my thing.

"Pronouncing Doom" (Emberverse story) by S.M. Stirling is another dystopia, but oddly I found I liked it, mostly because the dystopia was simply the background setting, rather than the looming misery it often is in dystopias, touching every part of the story in doom.

"Name the Beast" by Sam Sykes was a fantasy, and I just could not get into it.

"Caretakers" by Pat Cadigan was sort of a mystery. A woman and her younger sister are watching their mother slowly disappear into Alzheimer's. The sister thinks something untoward is happening, but isn't sure what.

"Lies My Mother Told Me" (Wild Cards story) by Caroline Spector was a super-hero type story, and was surprisingly light-hearted, despite dealing with themes of rape and child abuse.

"The Princess and the Queen" (A Song of Ice and Fire story) by George R.R. Martin is a story of an existing world I'm not reading, so I skimmed and bit and then skipped. George R.R. Martin's writing isn't for me.

All in all, there were more stories I disliked than liked, which sometimes happens. As this covers all different genres, you're likely to find at least one story you like, you'll just have to decide if it's worth the price.

Published by Tor Books

Rating: 5.5/10