Catherine Asaro, ed.
Completed 8/4/2014, Reviewed 8/11/2014
I’m not usually a short story fan, and I always have an initial negative reaction to books selected by the SF book club I attend. So of course I was predisposed to disliking this collection of Nebula winning and nominated stories from 2012 for the August selection. But this book was a revelation. The stories included here are full of literary genre-bending speculative fiction that I have barely sampled in limiting myself to the novel format. What I thought would be two weeks of teeth-gnashing drudgery became a four day marathon of wonder.
The standout story was “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu. It was the first story of any length to win the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. It’s about a Chinese-American boy whose mother makes magical origami animals that come to life to be his friends. It’s also about love, identity, and self-acceptance. This is one of those gems that makes you understand the power literature can have on society and understanding. When you get this book, go right to this story and read it first.
Some other favorites include Connie Willis’ “Ado”, about political correctness and censorship taken to the extreme; “The Axiom of Choice” by David W Goldman, told like an interactive story about a musician down on his luck; “The Sea King’s Second Bride”, a poem by CSE Cooney; and “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Seinmetz, about a young girl growing up on a space station known for its amazing sauerkraut in the middle of a galactic revolt.
Two stories that I found quite wild were “The Migratory Pattern of Dancers” by Katherine Sparrow and “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E Lily Yu. These stand out as being incredibly inventive. I wasn’t exactly happy with the ending of “Dancers” but I was still very impressed by the concept, and really liked the prose.
That sort of sums up how I felt about this book. Even if I didn’t care for a story, I was still enthralled by some aspect of it, the writing, the concept, a character. And with stories of these sizes, from short to novelette to novella, you get an amuse bouche, something that delights the palette.
I’m not great at reviewing collections of stories that are not related. So I hope I conveyed that this is a great collection. Some stories are profound, some wild, some traditional. If you read a lot of full length novels, or generally don’t care for short stories, I recommend testing your palate with this book. 4 stars out of 5.