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Strange Brew

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Strange Brew (2009) edited by P.N. Elrod

I love short story collections. They’re a way to discover new authors, visit with favorite characters, and to be honest I just enjoy short stories. Now if you like short stories, you eventually learn that a lot of collections are not worth buying, but there are certain authors that will cause me to buy an anthology on sight. This collection has several of those authors: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris.

As with most collections, there are some good stories, and some stories I didn’t like quite as well. For some reason, the stories I like the best seem to end up in the front of the book–which is unusual, because with Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s Sword & Sorceress anthologies, that tended to end on very strong stories. This collection, not so much, which is always a little disappointing.

Patricia Brigg‘s story “Seeing Eye” was one of my favorites. It’s set in the same world as her Mercy THompson series, but other than a mention of the Marrock, none of the characters from that series appear. Which is a good thing, since as I noticed with some of the other stories, if you’re not familiar with the characters in the series, short stories can fail miserably at times. This one does not. Moira is a witch–a good witch–who has made sacrifices for her power. She is very unhappy when her doorbell rings in the middle of the night, with a werewolf demanding she help him recover her brother. This story does feel like it may want to be larger, with these characters continuing.

Charlaine Harris‘ story “Bacon” was somewhat vicious for her (though not so much for other authors in the horror genre). It was actually rather amusing–in a slightly different way than her normal stories. In fact, I kept forgetting that I was reading a Charlaine Harris story–but in a good way. It also wasn’t about Sookie, which was a nice change of pace.

P.N. Elrod‘s story, “Hectate’s Golden Eye” stars her vampire detective Jack Flemming. It doesn’t have quite as much atmosphere as her books, but the mystery is good–and does contains elements of magic that are somewhat unusual to her Jack Flemming stories.

Of the authors with which I was unfamiliar, I especially liked Faith Hunter‘s story “Signatures of the Dead.” It had a very feel of horror, with a good deal of death and pain wrought by the vampires in this story, but the characters were interesting and intriguing. Apparently the author is writing a book about one of the secondary characters from this story, which is a very good way to do things I think.

The other story I especially liked was Jim Butcher‘s “Strange Brew.” It’s a short story with Harry and Murphy, and it went in some interesting directions.

What I thought was interesting was several of the stories reached back into mythology for parts of their stories, which I really enjoyed (although I didn’t need all the explanation that was given). If you think you might be interested in reading supernatural fantasy, this anthology would be a good place to sample some stories.
Rating: 8/10




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