Story Collection

These are collections of stories by one author.

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

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014: An enjoyable collection

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several "Year's Best" collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part.

I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor's introduction and saw him praising Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines, because they can often be the home of another kind of story, in which alienate... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson

The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson by E.F. Benson

I had read E.F. Benson's The Horror Horn to start with (a collection of 13 of his best ghost stories), after seeing that it was considered one of the Top 100 Horror Books of all time in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume. Each of those 13 stories was so good that I just had to have more, and so picked up this collection — The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson — of every single one of Benson's spooky tales, 54 in all. This collection certainly did not disappoint; I loved every single one of these ghost stories, and was riveted ... Read More

The Martians: A MARS story collection by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s MARS trilogy is a landmark of science fiction. The books visualize the terraforming of the red planet from a desert wasteland to a verdant living space while Robinson examines humanity from economic, psychological, political, sociological, and ecological viewpoints, culminating in the most in-depth look at colonizing Mars as has yet been written. The quantity of material was so great in fact, that Robinson published the story collection The Martians three years after Blue Mars. Collecting material spilling over in the creative effort, it features short stories published from magazines, cuts from the novels, Robinson’s notes, musings, and others — 26 pieces in all. The time and setting of the selections is scattered throughout the three novels. Some stories fill gaps not explicitly described, some are alternate ... Read More

Crystal Express: Stories by Sterling

Crystal Express by Bruce Sterling

Crystal Express is a 1989 collection of short stories by Bruce Sterling, originally published between 1982 and 1987. Five of the stories are set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe made popular in Schismatrix, three are general science fiction, and four lean toward the fantasy genre. The stories are grouped along these thematic lines, and the following is a brief summary of each story.

Shaper/Mechanist:

“Swarm” (1982) — Certainly one of Sterling’s initial forays into the Shaper/Mechanist universe if not the first, “Swarm” is poorly written (it has almost a cartoon presentation), but does a solid (if overt) job of delineating the differences between Shapers and Mechanists. It tells the tale of two people trapped inside an asteroid filled with Investor youth and their plans for genetic modification.
“Spider Rose... Read More

Magic for Beginners: Impressive and strange

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Kelly Link's short story collection, Magic for Beginners, is a great piece of work. In a bit of a departure from her earlier collection Stranger Things Happen, the stories in it don't follow normative narrative structures; they draw from sources as various as fairy tales, kitchen sink realism, heist stories, TV fandom, and Link's own surrealist vision.  These nine stories don't share overt connections, but they do provide a window into modern American life, complete with bland marriages, mortgages, and random zombie sightings. I listened to Random House Audio's version of this book which is almost 11 hours long and is read by various actors such as Cassandra Campbell, Lorna Raver, Marc Bramhall, and others.

The first story, "The Faery Handbag," was my favorite. It was the most straightforward, which probably indicates that I'm a lazy reader and ... Read More

Horrible Monday: Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead.
—Arthur Machen (quoted as an introduction to “The Horror at Red Hook”)

Everyone must read a little Lovecraft and Blackstone Audio’s recently published edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft is, in my opinion, the perfect way to do that. Like re-animated corpses, Lovecraft’s most popular stories from the 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines are brought back to life by some of the best readers in the business: Paul Michael Garcia, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Adam W... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher

The Compleat Werewolf  by Anthony Boucher

The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction gathers together 10 short stories and novellas from the pen of Anthony Boucher, all of which originally appeared in various pulp magazines (such as Unknown Worlds, Adventure Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories) from 1941-'45. Boucher, whose real name was William Anthony Parker White, was a man of many talents, and during his career, which lasted from the early '40s to the late '50s, he worked as a magazine editor, a book reviewer (for The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune) and an author of science fiction, horror and mystery.

I initially learned of this Compleat Werewolf collection of 196... Read More

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