Saturday, December 29, 2012
Review: Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow.
Curses by Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden is tasked with removing a curse from the Chicago cubs, inflicted by the fair folk, that prevents them playing well in the world series. Very humorous batter between Harry and one of the female fair folk and uses the Chicago setting to greater effect than any previous Dresden story. Lacks the usual tension though. 7/10.
How the Pooka Came to New York City by Delia Sherman: After being saved by a mortal a pooka decides to accompany him to the new world and attempt to repay the debt. Clever use of Irish folklore. 7/10.
On the Slide by Richard Bowes: An actor embroiled in a legal case that could make some very dangerous people angry if he testifies tries to find a way to go back in time. Well fleshed out characters but a touch too predictable. 6.75/10.
The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner: Alec, a disgruntled young nobleman comes across to the darker side of town for someone to kill but instead falls in love with his would-be-assassin. Things get more complicated when he inherits the dukedom and his relatives have a trial period to challenge him for it. Some impressive world-building with a society based on very set rules or manners. Some of the story is told from a bystanders point of view which was a nice touch, although some characters feel too inaccessible. 7/10.
Oblivion by Calvin Klein by Christopher Fowler. A disgruntled house wife who takes retail therapy to an extreme goes on a rampage when her credit card declines. A very original perspective but lacks direction at times and is let down by the ending. 6.5/10.
Fairy Gifts by Patricia Briggs: Years ago a vampire named Thomas was given freedom after helping a fairy in peril. Thomas is called on again when the fairy finds herself in trouble yet again. A very well developed protagonist and a very well worked twist. 8.25/10.
Picking up the Pieces by Pat Cadigan: Jean recounts a trip to Berlin in 1989 when she is forced to travel to Germany to aid her irresponsible younger sister who has run out of money while looking for a lost boyfriend. Amidst events the Berlin wall is coming down and the boyfriend has a secret of his own. Jean is a very well-developed and likable character and the author made some good story decision making by keeping her on the cusp of the strange events without going into unnecessary detail. Great example of not letting events overshadow the character 7.75/10.
Underbridge by Peter S. Beagle: Richardson is a middle age college lecturer who takes on a position at Seattle. There he encounters a homeless man and realizes he has a strange connection to the Frement Bridge troll. One of the stronger pieces in this collection. Richardson is a quirky character and Beagle portrays him brilliantly, perfect little twist at the end. 8.75/10.
Priced to Sell by Naomi Novik: Follows a group of real estate agents as they try to find properties for some supernatural clientele. It’s a quirky concept but Novik doesn't really take it anywhere, so winds up a touch disappointing. 6/10.
The Bricks of Gelecek by Matthew Kressel: An embodiment of destruction, part of a band that erases cities from existence, begins to question what he does when he encounters a girl whose art inspires creation. Strongest of the bunch. Top notch world-building and character development and really makes the reader think. Strong conclusion seals the deal. 9/10.
Weston Walks by Kit Reed: Weston is a wealthy man who lost his parents at a young age which has led to him not letting people get close to protect himself. He runs walking tours of the city but when one goes wrong he encounters a girl who won't leave him alone. This one was all over the place and at times non-sensical Reed fails to nail down the character's personality to any degree, the story fails to go anywhere and the ending is weak. 4.5/10.
The Projected Girl by Lavie Tidhar:Danny, a young Jewish boy uses his bar mitzvah money to buy a magician’s journal and realizes that a lifelike painting of a young woman may be more than what it seems. Great tone and Tidhar captures the character and setting perfectly. Another good example of not letting events overshadow the character. 8.75/10.
The Way Station by Nathan Ballingrud: Beltrane, an old hobo, goes in search of his long lost daughter but the ghosts of the New Orleans flood haunt him, literally. Very strong imagery in this piece and the central character is well realized but does go off in a bit of a tangent which hurts the story. 7/10.
Guns for The Dead by Melissa Marr: The newly deceased Frankie Lee is looking for a job but when he encounters gun store owner Alicia he is in for a job interview he won't soon forget. Interesting world-building but the confrontation plot feels a bit contrived and rushed. 6.75/10.
And Go Like This by John Crowley: The world's population is transported to New York City. This piece just did not work for me and feels like it’s been phoned in. No real characters, no clear ending and goes nowhere. 3/10.
Noble Rot by Holly Black: Agatha is a delivery girl working for a Chinese take-away who develops a soft spot for one of her clients, a dying rock star. The two main characters are well realised and the supporting cast just as strong. The plot seems to be going one way and then cleverly twists in a different direction. 8.25/10.
Daddy Long Legs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford: A young boy's brain is taken over by a spider. Years later he remerges and decides to prey on the unfortunate residents of the city of Grindly. Perfect tone and darkly twisting plot make this piece really work. 8/10.
The Skinny Girl by Lucius Shepard: Hugo Lis is a photographer who specialises in taking photos of dead bodies. One day he comes face to face with a woman claiming to be an incarnation of death herself. Strong lead character but the plot can be a bit flimsy at times. 6.75/10.
The Collier's Venus (1893): Professor Jeremiah Ogilvy is visited by an old flame who wants to investigate a mysterious woman who has emerged from a rock in a Colorado mine. Another piece which nails the tone perfectly. Strong characters and ending.8.75/10.
King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear: The genius Loci of Las Vegas Jackie and Stewart are confronted with a strange old woman who uses captured ghosts to restore her memory. When Jackie starts losing his memories as well they are forced to investigate. Strong world-building and solid pacing. 8/10.
Overall a descent collection with some very good pieces. The weaker stories generally suffered from a poor structure and lack of a really defined ending. 8/10.