Story Collection

These are collections of stories by one author.

To Hold the Bridge: An inventive and engaging collection of short-stories

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

This is not the first time Garth Nix (or at least his publisher) has released an anthology like this one: a short story collection that heavily emphasizes the inclusion of a brand new tale set within the Old Kingdom (the setting of his most famous works: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen and the recent Clariel) but which also contains an eclectic assortment of unrelated stories.

The last anthology was called Across the Wall, and as with that book there may be a few readers disappointed in the fact that only the first story is set within the Old Kingdom – and unlike Across the Wall, it does not contain any familiar characters from the rest of the series, only the city of Belisaere and the Guilds that make up such a large part o... Read More

Falling in Love with Hominids: A mixed bag by a gifted, playful writer

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

Falling in Love with Hominids takes its name from a Cordwainer Smith passage. In her introduction, Nalo Hopkinson cites him as a refuge and a comfort during difficult times in her life. The anthology contains 17 stories. Several are short and probably qualify as flash fiction. Generally, Hopkinson writes the kinds of stories I like, and Falling in Love with Hominids includes fantasy, dark fantasy and outright horror, often incorporating folklore and a style of writing that evokes Jamaican oral story-telling language.

Jana read Falling in Love with Hominids, too. What did you think, Jana? (I'll put Jana's comments in blue text.)
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The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection: Four delightful stories read by the author

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection (The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, Cinnamon, Crazy Hair) by Neil Gaiman

The only thing better than one of Neil Gaiman’s children’s stories is one of Neil Gaiman’s children’s stories read to you by Neil Gaiman. Do not pass these up when you see them. I found these four stories in audio format at my library, both individually and as the cleverly titled The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection. If your library doesn’t have them, you can purchase them separately for less than $2 each at Audible, or you can purchase the entire collection, which was released by HarperAudio in January 2015, for $9. (Ummmm.... let’s do the math here... purchasing them separately seems like a better deal, however, the complete collection ends with Maddy Gaiman interviewing her ... Read More

Working for Bigfoot: Three DRESDEN FILES novellas

Working for Bigfoot: Stories From the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Most DRESDEN FILES fans probably didn’t know that one of Harry’s occasional clients is a Bigfoot named Strength of a River in His Shoulders. River has a half-human son named Irwin Pounder whom he has never met. Whenever River senses that Irwin needs help, he calls Harry Dresden, wizard for hire. So, in Working for Bigfoot, Jim Butcher gives us three novellas about three cases that Harry has worked for River. This is a welcome addition to the DRESDEN FILES, as fans wait for the next novel-length installment. It would also be a great introduction to Harry for those who aren’t familiar with Chicago’s greatest wizard.

In the first story, “B is for Bigfoot,” we witness the first meeting between Harry and River... Read More

Beginnings: Five stories from the “Honorverse”

Beginnings by David Weber

Beginnings is the sixth book in the WORLDS OF HONOR series, edited by David Weber. WORLDS OF HONOR collects stories about Honor Harrington and other Honorverse character, often written by other writers. As Beginnings implies, these five stories mostly take place before Honor’s service in the Royal Manticoran Navy. One takes place late in Honor’s career, and explores changes to the navy of Grayson, a world with a rigid, patriarchal political system.

In “By the Book,” Charles E. Gannon provides some rollicking action, a cerebral mystery and a political coming-of-age of a young Lieutenant. Earth-sider — or “dirt-sider” as the i... Read More

Ellison Wonderland: Annoyingly pompous, but still entertaining

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison®

Harlan Ellison® comes across as pompous, overbearing, aggressive, and obnoxious, but I wouldn’t miss any of his stories. He’s one of the best story tellers in speculative fiction and I have no problem separating the man’s fiction from his personality (though that abrasiveness often comes across in his fiction, too). And, as much as I don’t like his personality, I have to admit that he’s interesting. Partly that’s because he does interesting things such as getting expelled from THE Ohio State University after assaulting a professor who criticized his writing, but mostly it’s because he’s been involved in the SFF scene since a couple of decades before I was even born, so he’s got a lot of stories to tell about the industry and about some of my favorite writers.

That’s what he does for a lar... Read More

The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories: Well-written but overstuffed

The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories by Poul Anderson

Short story anthologies tend to be difficult to review, mostly because it’s hard to come up with a cohesive theme to discuss when the stories can be so diverse in quality and in tone. Fortunately for me, Poul Anderson seems to have gone out of his way in this little collection to ensure that any reviewer had no such problems here. The stories are actually remarkably similar in setting, tone, and theme. They also share much the same flaws. So while I will deal with the stories individually, I can also discuss them in general.

Each story in the collection is planetary romance of some description. Anderson apparently doesn’t buy into warp drives or wormholes, so voyages across the stars are always slow and expensive. In each story, humans establish colonies on some ... Read More

Secret of the Earth Star: A wonderful package from Starmont House

Secret of the Earth Star by Henry Kuttner

Starmont House had a wonderful thing going for itself in the early 1990s. The Seattle-based publisher, with its line of Facsimile Fiction, was taking the old pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s, making photocopies of selected stories, and packaging them in a line of reasonably priced paperback and hardcover editions; a genuine blessing for all fans of these old, rapidly moldering monthlies. Secret of the Earth Star, number 6 in the Facsimile Fiction line, in a series that stretched to at least 14, collects eight (NOT seven, as the book's cover proclaims) wonderful stories from Henry Kuttner, one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. Alone and in collaboration with the equally talented C.L. Moore (his wif... Read More

Men, Martians and Machines: Proto-“Trek”

Men, Martians and Machines by Eric Frank Russell

More than four decades before Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and his mixed crew of Earthlings, aliens and android made their initial appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation, English author Eric Frank Russell was charming readers with his tales of a similarly composed starship crew. Russell (1905 – ’78) had been a contributor to John W. Campbell’s seminal Astounding Science-Fiction magazine since 1937, when it was simply called Astounding Stories (Campbell would, years later, name Russell as his favorite science fiction author, which is quite a statement, considering all the many great writers whom editor Campbell fostered during the genre’s Golden Age!), and in 1941 contributed the first of four stories that would ultimately be collected into the volume appropriately titled Men, Martians and Machines. The collection was init... Read More

The Rediscovery of Man: The strangest future mythology you’ll ever read

The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith

The universe that Cordwainer Smith created has captured the imagination of many SF fans and authors thanks to the short stories that have been collected in The Instrumentality of Mankind (1974), The Best of Cordwainer Smith (1975), and The Rediscovery of Man (1993). It is without doubt one of the strangest and most memorable creations in SF, even if it only affords short, tantalizing glimpses of a much greater tapestry that the author was never able to fully reveal due to his untimely death at age 53.

The most famous of those stories are included in the Gollancz edition:

Scanners Live in Vain (1950)
The Lady Who Sailed the Soul (1960)
The Game of Rat and Dragon (1955)
The Burning of the Brain (1958)
Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh! (1959)
The ... Read More

The Best of Connie Willis: Everyone must read Connie Willis

The Best of Connie Willis by Connie Willis

Connie Willis has received a staggering eleven Hugo and seven Nebula awards in her career, an achievement nobody has equaled. Her induction in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009 and receiving the SFWA Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 2011 can hardly be called surprising. Of her novels, three or four, depending on whether or not you count the two volumes Blackout and All Clear as a single work, have won awards, the rest Willis received for her short fiction.

The Best of Connie Willis: Award-winning Stories contains ten pieces of fiction, ranging from short stories to novellas. As the title suggests each has won at least one award. Willis has written an introduction to the collection and brief afterwords for each of the stories. Three of her acceptance speeches have also been added. The stories... Read More

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: Less fun than I expected

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of fourteen stories written by Terry Pratchett and illustrated by Mark Beech. Each page of the books is covered in wacky fonts or scribbles to emphasize certain words and phrases, and the lines of print are double-spaced to promote easy reading for young eyes. The entire book is clearly engineered for elementary school readers. The stories were written when Pratchett was a teenager, working for his local newspaper; Pratchett writes in the Introduction that he touched them up a little before publication, though much of the weakness of style and craft which are to be expected from such an immature writer still remain.

The tales themselves are enjoyable, I suppose, though I think I would have appreciated the silliness and r... Read More

Get in Trouble: More sucker-punching awesomeness from Kelly Link

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link throws a mean sucker punch. Her latest short story collection, Get in Trouble, is calculated to get you — to draw you in under one premise, and then take you somewhere else entirely. It explores modern America through her special blend of genre-busting surrealism. Exploring various landscapes such as rural North Carolina, Florida swamps, and Southern California, Link exposes the inherent weirdness of our everyday lives. She spins out alternate realities based on the already-established facts of our existence, like online dating, personal digital gadgets, and fading television stars.

If there's a thread connecting these stories, it's that all of the characters are already in trouble. Whether experiencing the toxic peer-pressure of teenage years, or alcoholism and ennui of early adulthood, or t... Read More

The Very Best of Kate Elliott: An excellent display of talent and range

The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is a prolific writer, producing over twenty fantasy and science fiction novels and several highly-acclaimed short stories in the last three decades. This year alone will see the publication of not only The Very Best of Kate Elliott, a collection of twelve short stories and four essays, but also two new novels: Court of Fives and The Black Wolves, and Elliott shows no signs of slowing her output in the future. Thus it was with some prickliness that I began reading The Very Best of Kate Elliott, thinking that the title would prove to be ambitious at best (and disappointingly superlative at worst).

The introduction provides insight into Elliott’s progression from young reader to mature writer of fi... Read More

Trigger Warning: Diamonds, pearls, and fool’s gold

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

In Trigger Warning, his latest collection of what he calls “Short Fictions and Disturbances,” Neil Gaiman gathers together several short stories and poems which examine that most interesting of creatures: a person, or a small group of people, under pressure. How will they react to the unknown? What decisions will they make in a crisis? Whether it’s something seemingly innocuous, such as a child’s request for a bedtime story or a letter from a man to his beloved, or something far grander, on the scale of mystical doors between worlds or a cave which grants gold in exchange for a terrible price, each character must face a trial. Success is never guaranteed.

So what is a “trigger warning?” Dictionary.com defines it as “a stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especi... Read More

The Fox Woman and Other Stories: Several short pieces by a master of the form

The Fox Woman and Other Stories by Abraham Merritt

The Fox Woman and Other Stories is the only collection of Abraham Merritt's shorter works, and contains seven stories and two "fragments." These short stories span the entire career of the man who has been called America's foremost adventure fantasist of the 1920s and '30s. Several of the tales boast the lush purple prose of Merritt's early period (as seen especially in his first two novels, The Moon Pool and The Metal Monster), but all seven are finely written little gems. They run the gamut from full-blown fantasy to lost-world adventure to outright science fiction, and abundantly demonstrate that Merritt was a master of the concise short form as well as the full-length novel.

The collection kicks off with one of its strongest... Read More

Trigger Warning: Some stand-out tales, and some bits and bobs

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Distrubances by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's latest collection of short fiction and poetry, Trigger Warning, begins, like his other collections, with a long, explanatory introduction. While the reader certainly doesn't have to read this chapter, here entitled "Making a Chair," I really enjoy this practice of Gaiman's. These introductions not only forecast what the stories are about (you know, just in case I'd want to skip anything) but they also provide a window into Gaiman's writerly process. I've always appreciated this about Gaiman in general; his online persona seems very humble, open, and interested in talking about the intersections between his life and his work. This feeling intensifies when he writes so candidly on the page.

As I do with most short story collections I review, I'm onl... Read More

The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales: Excellent compendium of a legendary career

The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales by Robert E. Howard

A very long time ago, when I was still in high school, Texas-born Robert E. Howard was one of my favorite authors, and this reader could not get enough of him, whether it was via such legendary characters as Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Solomon Kane or Bran Mak Morn.

Flash forward more years than I’d care to admit, and one day I realized that I hadn’t read a book of Howard’s in all that intervening time. Sure, I’d run across the occasional story of his now and then; when your tastes run to vintage pulp fiction, as do mine, and you read a lot of old anthologies and Best of Weird Tales collections, the man is practically unavoidable. But an entire book devoted to Howard … it had been eons, for me.

Thus, the collection entitled The Haunter of the Ri... Read More

Academic Exercises: A collection of stories from an original voice

Academic Exercises by K.J. Parker

K.J. Parker is a relatively recent discovery of mine, and she (?) is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Known for her dry cynicism, understated humor, and intriguing explorations of morality, her stories are set in a historically informed world fleshed out with Parker’s rich historical knowledge.

Collected here in her first anthology, Academic Exercises, her short fiction has so far won two World Fantasy Awards for her novellas “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let Maps to Others.” Included in this anthology are also three non-fiction essays on historical subjects such as siege warfare, and the history of swords, and armor.

K.J. Parker's short fiction differs from her longer works in that they frequently feature magical elements, something that her longer works largely stay away from.  Although some... Read More

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection: Indispensable

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

Jay Lake died in June of 2014. It was a tragic loss but not a surprise, since Lake had made his experiences with cancer public. Last Plane to Heaven, edited by Lake himself, is a reminder of just how much the speculative fiction world lost.

I have always loved Lake’s prose, but I had trouble with his novels. This collection of thirty-two stories shows him, mostly, at his best and strongest. As with his novels, even when a story is, by my lights, less than successful, it is still a fascinating read. Lake put a brief introduction to each story. In several cases these often humorous introductions are as interesting as the story. Fair warning, though; several of these introductions discuss the effect of his cancer and the treatments on his writing; be prepared.

Because there are thirty-two stories, I am not going to comment on all of them... Read More

Edge: The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel  by Violet Kupersmith

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

While I found most of the stories in Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel to be solidly engaging, I can’t say any of them struck me with any particular weight. They were amiable enough, and several of them had some beautiful passages of description or some sharply defined moments of characterization, and a few have a deliciously creepy supernatural element, but as much as I was mildly enjoying myself, I kept waiting for one to grab me wholly. Unfortunately, none did.

The first, “Boat Sto... Read More

The State of the Art: Stories by Iain M. Banks

The State of the Art by Iain M. Banks

The State of the Art is a collection of short fiction written by Iain Banks between 1984 and 1987. Surprisingly, it is the only such collection the author has published. Given Banks’ fifteen mainstream novels and twelve science fiction novels, one would expect a much larger output of short stories and novellas. The following is a brief summary of the eight stories (most of which are science fiction stories, three which are CULTURE related).

“Road of Skulls” — Not a story in any conventional sense, the collection opens with the bickering of Mc9 and a companion whose name “he’d never bothered to find out” while they sit on the back of a cart being pulled over a road paved with enemy skulls. A short, macabre tribute to storytelling.

“A Gift from the Culture” — Wrobik Sennkil, recently detached from the Culture and at... Read More

Empire Dreams: An excellent sampler of Ian McDonald’s work

Empire Dreams by Ian McDonald

Over the past few months I’ve read seven novels by Ian McDonald and have appreciated his thoughtful and beautifully written stories. I admired all of them, even those that I didn’t particularly like. McDonald’s stories are unique, many have exotic settings you can get immersed in, and most have fascinating science fiction ideas while also portraying poignant human struggles.

Empire Dreams (1988) is a sampler of ten of McDonald’s short stories and novelettes that offer fans and new readers a few glimpses of the author’s brilliance and versatility. The first five were originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine and the rest are original to this volume:

“Empire Dreams (Ground Control to Major Tom)” — (Originally printed in Asimov’s, December 1985) This novelette is about a new medical technology that... Read More

Stone Mattress: Nine new tales from Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is hardly an unappreciated author. Booker winner, seemingly constant nominee for the Orange and Booker prizes, Harvard Arts Medal, Orion Book Award, and the list goes on. But one thing I’d say she doesn’t get enough credit for is her humorous touch, which can be scathingly, bitingly funny, and which is on frequent display in her newest collection of short stories, Stone Mattress: Nine Tales.

The anthology is comprised of nine “tales” (in the afterword, Atwood explains why she prefers that descriptor), the first three of which — “Alphinland”, “Revenant”, and “Dark Lady” are tightly linked by character and events. The others are independent, though they do share some similar themes and characters — vengeance, the travails (and pleasures) of aging, a deliciously macabre tone. Like nearly all such collections, some stories ... Read More

Engraved on the Eye: Ahmed writes what he knows

Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed

The first story in Saladin Ahmed’s Engraved on the Eye is about the meeting of the two main characters in his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, and I liked it enough that it inspired me to look for the novel. I can see what the critical fuss is about: Ahmed writes smoothly and well, has interesting protagonists, and makes their choices matter.

Early on in the collection, it looked as if all the protagonists were going to be young Muslims struggling with faith and ethical choices as well as with life, but later in the book we got a couple of stories where this wasn't the case (and another where it was). In all but the last story, though, a well-told sword-and-sorcery tale with an unusual ending (for sword-and-sorcery), the main character was either Muslim, a member of an ethnic minority, or both. "Write what you know" is good writing advice,... Read More