Completed 3/24/2017, reviewed 3/26/2017
“Miniatures” is a fun little book. As described in its title, it’s all very
short fiction, about ten pages max. Most
of the stories are goofy fun. I don’t
really have a more mature way of putting it.
Almost every story is fun in some way, and they all have the goofy humor
that I’ve come to appreciate from John Scalzi.
I’ve only read one other book by Scalzi, “Redshirts”, which
won the Hugo some years back. It too was
goofy fun, although I didn’t call it that in my review of it. Where I really got to know Scalzi was at
Westercon last year where he was the Guest of Honor. I went to most of the panels he was on and he
was a hoot. He has a great sense of
That sense of humor is on display in “Miniatures”. It opens with a story that made me chuckle
out loud, “Alien Animal Encounters”. It’s
about people describing their most interesting encounter with an alien animal
species. Another good one was “Pluto
Tells All”. That has Pluto describing
what it was like being demoted to dwarf planet.
A third fun story was “The AI are Absolutely Positively Without a Doubt
Not Here to End Humanity, Honest”. That
was about machines becoming intelligent and doing an interview to explain that,
well, as the title describes, they are not here to end humanity.
Almost all the stories are tongue in cheek, sharply humorous. He mentions a few times in the intros for the
stories, that these are the sort of pieces he would use on book tours to warm
up the audience. And they do, they give
you a chuckle and lighten your mood. I
give this book three stars out of five because it’s basically fluff, a quick,
easy read, meant to make you laugh rather than pause and reflect. A few of the stories didn’t work for me, but
that is often the case in a collection like this. Usually, not every story is going to grab
me. But it’s a great book to read after
a heavier tome. I highly recommend it.
Completed 3/19/2017 Reviewed 3/20/2017
How do I describe a book that’s both corny and wondrous at
the same time? It’s kind of corny
because it’s about an ancient woman living in late 1980s Denver who uses heavy
metal music to fight for the release of her lover from a dark, magical
place. It’s wondrous for the exact same
reason. Christa is a harpist from
pre-Christian Ireland. The music she
creates is her source of magic. She lost
her lover in a land of immortals in the 1700s, controlled by a bard who is a
greater harpist than Christa. Now she
has discovered that heavy metal just might be the magical weapon she can use
against the bard to rescue her lover Judith.
So yes, it sounds corny, but I was completely pulled into the plot and
The majority of the book is about Christa discovering heavy
metal and her forming her own all-woman heavy metal band. She’s in Denver because she’s been following
the portal between our world and the immortal world where her lover is being
held captive. She teaches the harp and
one of her students invites her to a metal concert. At the concert Christa begins to realize that
metal has the same characteristics as her magical harp playing, and she just
might be able to use it to save Judith.
Having played the harp for over a thousand years, she understands music
so well that she picks up electric guitar in a matter of days. First she joins a metal band, but soon
realizes that she’ll have to form her own band to make the magic work.
The best part of the book is the forming of the band. Christa pulls together women musicians who
have crossed her path, all damaged souls who play terrifically. The characters are well-defined and have
interesting back stories. Part of the
greatness comes from describing what it’s like to be a woman in a music genre
dominated by men. Even once the band has
formed and shown how awesome they are, they still have to battle the issues of
being a girl band rather than a band made of talented women. In addition, they all must battle their own
personal demons that could derail the band, professionally as well as from its
purpose of saving Christa’s lover.
This book won the Lambda Literary Award in 1990, and I can
see why. It’s a terrific telling of a
story that could have just been corny and even soapy. But I found it executed marvelously. I was completely drawn in and even though the
ending was pretty predictable, I still found it exciting. I give this book five stars because of this,
and because I got emotionally involved with the characters and the
outcome. I’ve only given one other five
star rating recently. Reading as much as
I do now, I find it harder to give five stars, but this book really moved
me. And it wasn’t because I paid a
premium for this out of print book at a used book store. If anything, it should have added pressure
that I normally would have rebelled against, feeling that the book wasn’t worth
it. Perhaps it’s because I was in
several bands, so I understand some of the experience. Mostly though, I think it’s just a well told
story that’s different and exceedingly satisfying.
Completed 3/13/2017 Reviewed 3/14/2017
This was a peculiar book.
I found it relatively boring and uninspired through most of it. The story is about a Victorian lady who
visits a women’s prison on a regular basis.
She eventually forms a bond with a spiritualist who is imprisoned for
fraud and assault. Then in the last 50
pages or so, it starts to get interesting, ending with a great twist. But is it enough to make the book a worthwhile
read? Well, not really.
The book is not badly written. The prose is decent. I simply found the basic story very
boring. Miss Prior, the Victorian lady,
is a spinster who has been suffering from depression. I never found it clear why she decided to
become a Lady Visitor at the women’s prison.
Was it supposed to lift her from her depression? Going to a prison, even as a charitable deed
does not seem like the sort of thing that one would do to feel better. Miss
Prior goes to the prison, but because of her growing relationship with the
spiritualist, becomes more morose and rebellious at home. Of course, rebellious for a Victorian lady is
relatively mild by today’s standards.
But it causes conflict with Prior’s mother. It should be noted too that Prior is
basically already a spinster at age 29.
Her brother is married, and her younger sister is getting married.
The book is written as two diaries, told through alternating
chapters. One diary being Miss Prior’s,
the other being Dawes, the spiritualist.
I think the diary form is part of why it’s boring. Prior is not a great story teller. Dawes entries are short and
informational. We don’t really get much
character development out of them. We
get all the character development from Prior’s entries, and it’s just, well, I’d
Eventually, we are told that Prior was in love with her
sister-in-law before she married Prior’s brother. This adds a little spice to the story, but
not too much. Later, it becomes clear
that she also falls in love with Dawes, who seems to truly have the gift to
contact the dead. Through this
relationship, Dawes schemes to escape and run away with Prior. It’s here that the story starts to finally
pick up. But it is so close to the end,
you wonder what the purpose of the previous three hundred pages were. Maybe I missed some unspoken sexual tension,
but the relationship building went at a snail’s pace.
All I could think through most of this book was, what’s the
point. The prose is nice, but I felt
like nothing happened for about 300 pages.
The book is 351 pages. All the
intrigue happens at the end, and it was way too long to wait for me. However, I’ll give this book the benefit of
the doubt with a three star rating out of five, because of the prose and the
end. If you read this book, I think it
will help you that you know that you’ll be coasting for a long time. So try to enjoy the prose, and if you get
bored, rest in the knowledge that the payoff at the end is pretty good.