You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Short stories’ category.

In a similar vein to my recent post over on the Screen God, I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick round-up of the books I read since I last posted here on 30 July, so 4 months ago.

28677687The Silent Dead by Tetsuya Honda

Japans serial killer police procedural. I almost gave up on this because of the way the female main character was treated by her male colleagues. There was one senior policeman in particular who was SO odious that I almost gave up on the book, but I also really wanted to find out what the hell was going on, so I kept going. I’m glad I did because this was an interesting story.

 

225384Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule

Compellingly horrible but excellently written true crime book about the Green River Killer, thought to be America’s (if not the world’s) most prolific serial killer. I read Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy years ago and following a recommendation on Twitter I decided to give this one ago. As much as I enjoy fictional versions of this sort of theme, it’s good to be reminded just how awful the reality is for the victims’ families. Scary and compelling.

 

16065519Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

An investigation into the currently still at large (and let’s face it, unidentified) serial killer who has been dumping women’s bodies in Long Island. Incredibly sad as it focusses on the lives of the young women who were killed, and how their varying circumstances led them into prostitution which ultimately brought them into contact with their killer via the Internet. Grim.

 

17316519-_sy180_The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

As the blurb says, what’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon anyway? This is “a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse”, and it’s also a character study of the “last” policeman himself. Twisty and turny with a proper murder mystery at its heart, it allows us to look at a society waiting for the world to end, and how people cope (or not) with real impending doom. Enjoyed it so much I bought the rest of the trilogy.

25670162Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

I love short stories, and I love sci-fi short stories in particular but I’ll be honest and say that I picked this column up (if you can actually pick up an e-book) because I wanted to read the title story which is the basis for the recent (and IMHO) brilliant film Arrival. Not a duff story in here; all of them are dense and complex even when they appear to be simple on the surface. Although I adored the main story, my favourite is probably the one about angels, with a very simple idea – what if angels were real and whenever they appeared on earth they basically came as a natural disaster. Fascinating. I also loved that the author did a set of notes at the end about  what had triggered each story. Really very very good indeed.

27775591The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

I really enjoyed this but please don’t ask me to explain it 🙂 Inspired in part by John Carpenter’s The Thing, this is a novel about, well, time travel and Kantian (is that a word?) philosophy and revenge and obsession and Fermi’s Paradox which I had to look up and apparently refers to

the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates, for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

Thank you Wikipedia. The quickest read this year so far and the oddest since I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and its sequels. Loved it. Brain still hurts a bit though.

So that’s it. Thankfully I’m now going to end the year in double figures, and hopefully will be able to finish a few more in December.

Advertisements

IMG_0223What’s it all about?

Irregularity is an anthology of short stories which, as the blurb says

is a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum and award-winning publisher Jurassic London: a collection of original stories inspired by the Age of Reason. Using the Longitude Act as the jumping off point, IRREGULARITY is inspired by the great thinkers of the Age of Reason – those courageous men and women who set out to map, chart, name and classify the world around them. The great minds who brought order and discipline to the universe. Except where they didn’t.

I couldn’t have put it better myself and as you can see I didn’t even consider trying 🙂

Why did I want to read it?

I think I first came across this because I follow one of the authors on Twitter (I actually follow a few of them now) and she (pretty sure it was @kimecurran) mentioned that she had a story included in this volume, and then I looked at the other authors listed many of whom already were or were on the way to becoming favourites, and so downloaded it was.

What did I think of it?

I’ve said this ad nauseam but I’m going to repeat it, just because – anthologies are tricky to review because there are very few collections in which every story hits the spot. And I have to say that at first – and I will admit that I may possibly *ahem* have forgotten what the theme of the collection was when I started reading it – I wasn’t entirely sure where this was all going, but I can safely say that only a couple of the stories didn’t do it for me, and that’s not a bad hit rate out of 14.

It’s worth mentioning the following, which stood out:

  • The Spiders of Stockholm by EJ Swift – a writer new to me whom I was lucky enough to meet at a reading at the end of January, this is a story about spiders and dreams and categorisation and what happens when you put a name to something (and this story is up for the Sunday Times short story award)
  • The Assassination of Isaac Newton by the Coward Robert Boyle by Adam Roberts – (1) extraordinarily cool title (2) draws attention to Newton’s resemblance to (yes, that) Brian May (3) totally bonkers
  • The Voyage of the Basset by Claire North – Darwin + butterflies + coronation = wonderful story
  • A Woman out of Time by Kim Curran – things must happen as intended, ut who makes sure that it does?

As well as these the collection covers mapping the winds, understanding clocks, the hunt for impossible animals, dissection & art, animated dinosaurs and whether science can quantify love. Amongst lots of other stuff. Recommended.

IMG_0213What’s it all about?

North American Lake Monsters is a collection of horror stories set in the modern USA. I described it in my reading notes as

horror at the periphery of everyday lives of working people, mostly men

The description I’ve seen elsewhere (and not until after I’d finished the book) is

In this striking, bleak yet luminous debut collection, Nathan Ballingrud, winner of the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award, uses the trappings of the Gothic and the uncanny to investigate a distinctly American landscape: the loneliest and darkest corners of contemporary life.

So better put but fairly similar *phew*

Why did I want to read it?

I had come across a couple of Ballingrud’s stories in other collections and want to give his wider work a try. I hadn’t realised how many awards he had been nominated for until I got my hands on the volume (though nominations or award wins don’t always affect whether I want to read something).

What did I think of it?

Hmm. This was really a bit of a mixed bag. It contained the two stories I had read elsewhere, one of which didn’t stand up to a second read; the other, The Crevasse, was wonderfully Lovecraftian in its Antarctic setting and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. As for the others, I could appreciate the skill but they just didn’t connect with me; perhaps they were just too bleak (not that I mind bleak usually, but there was no relief at all here that I could see), and *whispers* too masculine for me. That’s not something I think I would have noticed if I’d come across any of these stories mixed in with the work of others, but it just leapt out at me reading them in a single volume.

Glad I gave it a shot but I don’t think I’ll be actively seeking out any more of his work.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge.

IMG_0209Whats it all about?

The Wide Carnivorous Sky (subtitle and Other Monstrous Geographies) is a collection of nine modern horror stories.

Why did I want to read it?

I came across the work of John Langan through the annual best of horror anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow where his stories stuck out as something exceptional. I wanted to read more and got a hold of this collection as a good starting point. He is clearly highly regarded by his peers.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this collection which nicely covers the full range of horror themes. Cannibalistic children? Check. Zombie apocalypse in the style of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town? Check. Werewolf-type things? Check. Unspeakable Lovecraftian entities breaking into our world and creating havoc? Why yes. Reasons why you shouldn’t hitch-hike? Indeed.

Particular favourites were

  • Technicolor – what was Poe up to in his lost week, what’s the Masque of the Red Death about, why you should really pay attention in your English Lit class
  • The Wide Carnivorous Sky – space vampires meet USA’s finest but not in a good way; assuming there is in fact a good way….

and my absolute favourite in the collection

  • Mother of Stone – the story of an academic investigating what appears to be an urban legend of about the events that follow the digging up and installation in a local hotel of a statue of headless pregnant woman, taking in myths, ancient religions, all manner of Fortean stuff and turning it into a disturbing tale of what happens when you don’t leave something well enough alone.

The collection also includes an introduction by Jeffery Ford and an afterword by Laird Barron, as well as notes on the stories by the author himself (I love author’s notes and aways read them where they are included) which give some insight into the genesis of the stories and what he was trying to achieve.

I’m pleased that my initial feelings about Langan’s work have been reinforced by the stories in this book, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge. I also learned that I have real problems typing the word “carnivorous”.

18374017What’s it all about?

The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales is a collection of ghostly and supernatural stories by Kate Mosse, set mostly in France or Sussex, area of the world that she knows very well and which have featured in her other works.

Why did I want to read it?

Creepy stories are ideal for this time of year. Plus I have a number of her books (not read) and had previously picked up and enjoyed The Winter Ghosts.

What did I think of it?

I really enjoyed this collection of quite gentle stories. They aren’t particularly gruesome and not really frightening, but they are very traditional, often about premonitions or the settling of old scores before a departed person can find peace or slippage into the past when visiting a historical setting (as in the title story). My favourite is probably The Revenant, set in the Fishbourne Marshes in 1955; a mysterious female figure appears to our heroine in the marshes seeking a form of justice for a crime which took place during the war. Very atmospheric.

I particularly enjoyed the stories set in Sussex as that’s the county where the Book God was born and I know enough of it for some of the places to be recognisable. One of the particular pleasures of the book is the author’s note for each story, giving some background on place or inspiration, especially interesting for those stories based on folklore.

I had planned to read a story a day and pace the book out over the run up to Christmas but got through them much more quickly than that, which should say something about the pleasures of reading these well-written tales.

13603362What’s it all about?

Shoggoths in Bloom is a collection of shorter fiction by Elizabeth Bear, must-award winning sci-fi and fantasy author. Includes a couple of tales that bagged her one or two Hugos.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read some of her work before in anthologies and her stories have always stuck out for me (she was probably my favourite from the recent Lovecraft themed collection which I read and reviewed here), particularly as she often writes tales related to the Cthulu mythos. So I wanted to get to know her work better.

Plus I loved the cover.

And the title.

What did I think of it?

A really strong collection showcasing the variety of her work. If I’m honest I was a tiny wee bit disappointed in the title story, which was good but not great IMHO. But there wasn’t a bad story in here and my particular favourites were:

  • Tideline – one of the Hugo winners, very moving. Loved Chalcedony.
  • In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns – a murder mystery in a futuristic India, with one of the characters being a genetically manufactured hyacinth parrot-cat
  • Cryptic Coloration – dealing with mythical beasties in the real world
  • Confessor – what’s really going on in that hidden lab up that mountain trail?

There are some themes that Bear is clearly interested in, mythical creatures and genetic modifications but two. I like the fact that she writes well across a range of genres and she is a genuine pleasure to read. I’ve already got my hands on more of her stories. Recommended.

IMG_0140What’s it all about?

As per the blurb:

The Book of Whispering Spirits is a haunting collection of 18 ghost stories, ranging from Gothic horror to modern tales of terror. These tales of the supernatural will haunt your dreams and trouble your sleep, making you believe once more in the ghostly phantoms that wait for you in the shadows. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, young spiritual medium Violet Winterbrook guides us through this collection of ghost stories, as told to her by the spirits who lived and died in them.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ll admit that although I’m a sucker for a decent ghost story what really drew me to this collection was the cover art by Abigail Larson, whom I just love (and a piece of whose work I treated myself to earlier in the year.)

What did I think of it?

It’s a nice collection of stories, none of them terribly memorable if I’m honest but fun to read at the time. The interesting thing for me is that the conceit that the medium Violet is sharing these tales is set up at the beginning and then disappears, without even a little epilogue at the end to round things off, which seems a shame. So absolutely fine but unlike the work of MR James (mentioned above and a regular re-read) I can’t see myself returning to this volume again.

This was my fifth read for RIP IX.

There are twenty stories in Lovecraft Unbound, which I’ve chosen as my read for RIP VI’s Peril of the Short Story, and I’m doing them in batches of five. Here are my thoughts on the first tranche:

  • The Crevasse – a classic Lovecraft creepy, claustrophobic tale of unnamed things in the Antarctic – really liked this one;
  • The Office of Doom – what do you think might be the consequences if you got a copy of the Necronomicon through an ILL? – a gross oversimplification of a great story
  • Sincerely Petrified – can a made-up legend take on a life of its own? – interesting premise let down  by really very unsympathetic characters
  • The Din of Celestial Birds – don’t go into the hovel, no seriously, don’t – doh, too late – couldn’t really get into this one at all
  • The Tenderness of Jackals – dark urban fantasy, but didn’t feel that Lovecraftian to me….

So a mixed bunch as you might expect, will be interesting to see what the next five are like!

shots-logo_180I’m going to have a stab at something I find very difficult, namely trying to talk about a Joyce Carol Oates short story in a meaningful way. I often find her short stories elusive; they have an impact on me but I’m not always clear why (if that makes sense).

This story is set in the 1960s (I think it was written in the late 60s) and is about Connie, a fifteen year old girl who has a relatively normal life; she gets on OK with her parents and sister but there are the usual tensions that you get within families. She isn’t always truthful – she tells her parents she’s going to the cinema  with her friend but they usually split up and hang around with boys.

One night she catches the eye of a particular boy, Arnold Friend, who comes to her house with one of his friends when he knows she is home alone. Connie realises that both of the boys are a lot older than she thought but she still doesn’t sense the danger…

Although the ending is fairly open, it’s clear what will happen to Connie, especially as I believe the character of Arnold Friend is based on a real person. I found the ideas behind the story quite disturbing, and there is a real sense of menace. I’m sure I haven’t done it justice, but since reading it at the weekend I find myself thinking back to it a lot.

shots-logo_180So yesterday found me in our garage unpacking a couple of boxes of books which have been in storage there for goodness knows how long, and I came across the Library of America edition of HP Lovecraft’s Tales, a handsome book which gives an air of scholarly gravitas to stories that are usually printed with more lurid covers. I’m sure I’ve said elsewhere that I have a huge affection for Lovecraft; I first came across him while I was still at primary school in the early 1970s (I must have been about 11); I still have the original paperback and looking at the cover I’m surprised my parents didn’t take it away from me, but there you are.

The first story in the collection is The Statement of Randolph Carter written in 1919 and full of things that would be familiar to all readers of his later work (Lovecraft himself described it as a ghastly tale and said that it was based on an actual dream). Carter and his friend Harley Warren head off into Big Cypress Swamp but only Carter makes it back out. This is his attempt to explain what happened based on the little he can recall.

It’s full of wonderful stuff; the pair have talked of “why certain corpses never decay, but rest firm and fat in their tombs for a thousand years” which gives you some idea of what they were off looking for. The tone of the first couple of pages put me in mind of Charles Gray as The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though the story gets a bit more hysterical towards the end. Not one of my favourites but it was good fun to read it again.

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday Salon.com

Goodreads

My Tweets

Brideofthebook

My Dad passed away a week ago, on Friday 10 November. This is my favourite photo of him and my late Mum at a wedding in (I think) 1961. Will be heading back home to Paisley for the funeral next week.

Blog Stats

  • 39,186 hits
November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Categories