Unnatural Worlds, edited by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Paperback, 246 pages. Volume 1 of Fiction River: An Original Anthology Magazine
Thanks to the ever prolific Seanan McGuire, I learned that there was a new anthology magazine
hitting the shelves, both in digital and paper form. In order to ensure that I received the edition with McGuire's story in it
(in December, I think), by ensuring that the first year of the publication was a success, I subscribed to the whole year.
Unnatural Worlds is a great introduction to some authors who I am now going to have to hunt down and eat. Not a single story was just-plain-bad, even if some were not to my taste. I admire that Smith and Rusch are coming back to publishing, and appreciate that Kickstarter gets a nod for their re-entry. What I really like is that I enjoyed everything they had to offer, either somewhat or quite a lot. And I'm glad that the story I like the most is from a new author.
"Life Between Dreams" - Devon Monk
This story is about a pair of dream wardens who battle the terrors brought into reality by strong dreams. The problem is that strong dreamers don't stop dreaming. // I started into Monk's Allie Beckstrom
series, but couldn't hang onto the main character. That does not mean she is anything less than a tight writer. I was pleased with how this story hung together without any backstory, extra understanding of the universe, etc. Two thumbs up.
"Finally Family" - Ray Vukcevich
The story about a bug boy and an English teacher in Japan who only meet during an earthquake jumped continents and timelines, which is fine for a novel but painful in a short story. I've never read this author before (that I recall) and this story does not promise me anything one way or the other. But I love his garden. One thumb up.
"The Grasshopper and My Aunts" - Esther Freisner
In the past days of my youth, I admit to reading Freisner. She has a seriously funny grasp on mythology and isn't afraid to throw a gorgon and a lover of Eos into the same story with Merlin in the English contryside and still get everyone through to the other side. This story starts out so typical of the "Little Women" type of story, and ends up more confused than funny. But we all muddle through. One thumb up and a wave of the other hand.
"True Calling" - Irette Patterson
This is another author who I don't know/remember. She is obviously good at paranormal romance stories. While simple almost to simplistic, this story of a kitchen witch coming into her powers at a surprise birthday party is sweet and lovely even in its predictability. Two thumbs up and a note to look for her novels.
"A Taste of Joie de Vivre" - Kellen Knolan
The magic in Ashley's town of Nexus disappeared when her grandmother was young... Until the day the lost son of the town returned in a bizarre accident. Ashley's days of being the picked-on girl at school ended abruptly as she woke up one morning to her own gift. This story is the one that stuck with me after I closed the book, in a happy way. It's a great story about a fat girl who wins without regard to her weight. Sure, she was picked on by the cheerleaders for being fat, but the end of the story has nothing to do with it, one way or the other. Two thumbs up and a note to look for his other works as soon as he gets published again.
"Here Kitty Kitty" - Annie Reed
I've never read the Diz and Dee
urban mystery novels, so this story stood alone for me. And it did a fine job. I didn't need any more backstory than she managed to toss in, and the plot completed without any weird add-ins from off screen. The story was well crafted, but didn't hook me. One thumb up.
"That Lost Riddle" - Dean Westley Smith
Despite his prolific publications, I don't know that I've read any Smith that I can recall. The character Poker Boy is supposedly well known, but he was new to me. This story about thinking through a problem was too shallow and focused too much on the characters rather than the problem. Again, I found I wasn't invested in anyone or anything, but the ending was clever. One thumb up.
"Shadow Side" - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Again, I feel I should know her work. And this story was fun for me because it climbed through the western mountains and into haunts that I felt I have visited already. I think the story finished stronger by only giving us the solution to the mystery of the ghost in the mountain lodge kitchen, rather than also explaining everything else going wrong. Two thumbs up.
"Sisters" - Leah Cutter
After reading Daughter of the Sword
, this story was a visit back to the far East. I enjoyed it for the cultural drive of the one sister to satisfy the ghost of the other in an Asian style that is quite foreign to me. What I wonder, though, is how much supernatural was actually in that story. One thumb up.
"The Witch's House" - Richard Bowers
A strong telepath with psychotic anger issues and hallucinations due to PTSD is not usually where I would put my short story efforts. It was an interesting attempt, but still a bit disjointed. I appreciated where he went with the ending, but I don't think it was a very smooth tale. One thumb up.
"Dog Boy Remembers" - Jane Yolen
Yolen will forever be enthroned in my young memory for Heart's Blood
. This story was a straight line story about how a boy became a tracker for the Red Cap ogres. It was from the boy's perspective, which gave everything scent and feeling rather than sight and sound. It was rich and complete in just a few pages. Two thumbs up.
"Barbarians" - David Farland
I've never read the Runelords
saga, so nothing in this story was familiar to me. It didn't matter. Farland did a fine job describing how both characters got where they were, before, during, and after the carriage crash. The fight with the dire wolves took too long, in my opinion, but it was action of a sort. The ending was sadly predictable even inside of a short story. One thumb up.
I picked it up because McGuire said so.
I recommend it to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy anthologies and is looking for something where not a single story ends with the protagonist losing.Books for 2013