Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Mixed Bag of Short Stories
I like Charlaine Harris's Sookie stories, so I'll hunt them down when I see them. So I put Strange Brew on my library request list, and was pleased to see that it also included stories from Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs. So I skipped around and read my favorites, then went back and finished the other stories as well.
The three big names had decent contributions; nothing soul-shaking but skillful explorations of their world. Briggs looked into the back story of a character mentioned in her latest novel, with an interesting view of how her werewolves seem to an outsider. Harris avoids her main characters but gives a story showing the darker sides of both vampires and werewolves. Butcher lets Harry get into big fights involving sexy villains and booze. P.N. Elrod (the editor) included another Jack Fleming story, with lots of double-crossing and thirties style gangster action.
The other stories were a bit disappointing, with Rachael Caine and Karen Chance showing the traits that made me stop buying their books. Their protagonists make too many silly choices, or explain their actions in unlikely ways. The romance in Caine's story may set a new record in severe creepiness, while the misunderstanding in Chance's effort deserves a spot in Silly Romance Hall of Fame. The final three authors were new to me, but I probably won't be seeking them out. Faith Hunter's story wasn't bad, but wasn't amazing, and Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclain's offerings were weak. Maclain's story provides a textbook example of a deus ex machina, since the protagonist can't figure a way out of her situation. A goddess literally shows up, tells Our Heroine that she is silly, and grants her enormous powers. Heroine messes up again, but nice goddess fixes everything. Again. Nothing our character thought or did made any difference. If this is explaining something inside a larger story, that might be acceptable, but as an introduction to an author it doesn't make me look for more.
Mainly the book provided small doses of familiar authors. I don't think any of it is a good introduction to the authors, but for us devoted fans, it's a nice snack while waiting for our next novel. C+