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In a similar vein to my non-fiction reads (see here), I thought I would provide a very quick round up of short fiction I read in the first quarter of 2018.

Jeff VanderMeer shorts

The Strange Bird and This World is Full of Monsters both take place in the same world as his last novel Borne, which I read last year and totally adored (you can read what I said about it here). I enjoyed both of these but found The Strange Bird much more accessible in terms of structure and narrative than This World, though both are beautifully written and very much worth reading.

The Murders of Molly Southborne

Oh this is a corker. Every time Molly bleeds another Molly is born and has to be disposed of; so she spends her life killing herself over and over. I found it totally compelling, as Molly explains what she has to do to survive, how this all happened and what her future might (will?) be. Just so so good, couldn’t stop thinking about it and will read it agin in the not too distant future.

A Long Spoon

It’s amazing the things you forget….  Apparently I bought this Kindle short back in 2014 and came across it when I was sorting out files on my iPad, and because I loved the cover I thought I would give it a go. Johannes Cabal is a necromancer and is heading off to a little-known part of Hell because someone is trying to kill him. He needs a guide though, and summons a demon called Zeranyia, one of my favourite characters of all time; she’s a hoot. This was a fun read, and I was pleased to discover (that memory again) that we have a copy of the first novel in the Cabal sequence.

Have you read any short works recently?

 

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A couple of short stories by Stephen King read for the King’s March challenge

Mile 81

IMG_0239Abandoned service station on major stretch of highway (I have never entirely understood what a turnpike is so forgive me US friends if I’ve got that wrong), boarded up, magnet for youngsters up to no good. Small boy mildly misbehaving through boredom. Particularly suspicious looking abandoned car. Tiny (but smart) children in peril. Very clever use of magnifying glass. Moral of the story – don’t approach strange cars, keep on driving, it will only end in tears. One of King’s specialities is this type of story where extreme weirdness happens in a very ordinary setting with no rhyme or reason. Liked it.

In the Tall Grass (written with Joe Hill)

IMG_0240

Abandoned (sort-of) church along a relatively lonely stretch of highway. Brother and (pregnant) sister on road trip before she has baby. Pull off the road after hearing cries from the tall grass that seems to stretch for miles. Small child in peril. Getting lost. Disorientation. Ancient evil (probably). Moral of the story – don’t stop for strange cries, keep on driving, it will only end in tears (sound familiar?). An accidental companion piece to Mile 81, totally unplanned in that I didn’t really investigate the plot of either story before I started to read them. Very very dark and ultimately depressing.

Interesting to compare standalone King to a story written in collaboration with his son, whose work I have also read but have found problematic in the past (see N0S4R2 for a start). King can be very nasty on occasion but I find him to have greater humanity in his stories than Hill. Without giving anything away, In the Tall Grass seems to offer no hope at all, whereas Mile 81 gives us the possibilities of human ingenuity in fighting off the bad stuff.

I do love a good sci-fi short story and recently read three for Carl’s Sci-Fi 2015 Experience.

IMG_0196A Tall Tail by Charles Stross

A really enjoyable is-it-or-isn’t-it-true story set at a Pentagon-hosted conference about the 100 Year Starship, where our author bumps into the rocket scientist twin brother of the writer Gregory Benford who introduces him to  Leonard-not-his-real-name who tells him the tall tale/tail of the title, involving all sorts of Cold War shenanigans. Great fun, and apparently most (if not all) of the science is accurate. Stross is becoming one of my favourite sci-fi writers.

IMG_0202The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is just a wonderful but sad but hopeful short story. It starts off with the Lady Astronaut herself being given a check-up by her doctor Dorothy (from Kansas who lived with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on a farm before a dreadful space-related accident, so yes, it’s that Dorothy). Dorothy came to Mars because she was inspired by the LA, Elma, now elderly and with an ailing husband and a burning desire to go back out into space. She is unexpectedly given the opportunity to do so and has to make a difficult choice – go and leave her husband behind or stay and watch him pass away. Lovely, nominated for a Hugo and I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little bit reading this. A new author to me but I am going to look for more of her work.

IMG_0203A Short History of The Twentieth Century by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Or When You Wish Upon A Star. This is the story of Carol, whose parents were both scientists but whose mother gave up her career for the reasons women did in the 1950s. Her Dad was a rocket scientist with leftist leanings who didn’t like the use made of German science brought to the US after the War. Influenced by the future as described by Walt Disney, Carol wants to follow in her Dad’s footsteps but it’s not a career for girls. According to Amazon (annoyingly) this is only science-fiction by association. I’m not sure I agree with that. But a lovely and inspiring story and I loved Carol’s Mum and how hey watched the moon landing on TV (something I do vaguely remember, being only 7 at the time). I read a couple of Goonan’s novels many years ago and this reminded me why  liked her and that I really should pick up her work again.

Another selection of recent short reads

IMG_0139Edie Investigates by Nick Harkaway

This short story features Edie Banister, elderly lady with a past full of derring-do and at present involved in investigating (unofficially of course) a rather unusual murder. This is either a teaser for or an outtake from Angelmaker, the novel in which Edie features heavily. As such it’s very enjoyable and it was lovely to meet Edie again, but I would recommend you get your hands on the novel which I read a year or so ago and thought was absolutely wonderful.

IMG_0183_2The Face at the Window by Louise Welsh

A collection of three short ghostly stories originally written for BBC radio (and broadcast on Radio 4 I believe). I enjoyed them (I do like a ghostly tale) and found them atmospheric but wonder if they wouldn’t have been even better read aloud on a grey chill winter afternoon. Louise Welsh is becoming one of my favourite authors and it was good to read some of her shorter fiction.

A quick round-up of recent short reads.

 

IMG_0097I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant

Linda Grant, like all writers I suppose, was totally surrounded by books, a collection built up over many years. But moving house meant weeding out her extensive collection to fit into her new space. In doing so she is taking apart her own history and in this short work talk about how she went about it, how it feels like now and how our development as people is reflected in the book collection we have. If you’re the kind of person who keeps books, that is. Really enjoyed this but a chill did settle on my heart as the Book God and I really really need to do something similar though not because we’re moving but simply because we are running out of room. Book lovers will enjoy this.

 

IMG_0086Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi

This is a taster for the novel Locked In which is due out over the summer and which I have already pre-ordered based on the strength of this story and a sample chapter which I’ve read. I’m a sucker for this kind of plague/disease/disaster type thing and I am also very fond of the oral history style (whether in fiction or non-fiction). Great little store explaining what Haden’s Syndrome was, how it was dealt with (or not) and where we are at the point the main story will start. Clever way to get that info out there without burdening the narrative (at least that’s my assumption, we’ll have to wait and see). Cool, though.

Bride of the Book God

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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.

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