Skip to main content

What I Read in May

This list will be a bit longer than previous post if only because there was so much I read this month that really appealed to me. I think two or three of them were instant favorites for the year, but I’ll withhold judgement until a few months have passed. As always, the list presented below is in no particular order.


Pacific Flotsam (2015 Morgan Crooks)
  • The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt by Alex Bledsoe (TOR.com) Bledsoe’s story is the kind I normally skip as the first scene involves a girl trying on an beautiful dress and making wedding plans. However, something about the protagonist's flinty dialogue kept me reading. I'm glad I did as within a few swift pages I was hooked. Bledsoe sets his fantasy pageant in a backwoods Virginia rife with European fairies intriguing with indigenous fey. The bride, the Bronwyn of the title, navigates through the needs of her own family and the machinations of rivals. This is a genuinely tense scenario with clever twists.
  • An Ocean of Eyes by Cassandra Khaw (The Dark) I’m recommending this story on the basis of its ghastly and strangley dignified setting:  a city ruled by dead, hungry gods and the fools lured to their own destruction. One of a handful of stories I’ve read this year bringing something fresh to Lovecraft Mythos.
  • Time Bomb Time by CC Finlay (Lightspeed) Finlay weaved an elegant mental claw-trap of a story. To say too much about the plot is to ruin the effect but suffice to say it revolves around two characters stuck in a bizarre situation unable to perceive that anything strange is going on at all. Very well constructed. Finlay is able to take a simple idea (almost a gimmick) and make it the heart of a distressing morality play.
  • Disharmony by Ken Poyner (DSF) A weird micro-fiction involving an alien race that uses music for weapons and the terrible results of getting into war with them. Evocative language in service of an unsettling idea.
  • For the Love of Sylvia City by Andrea Pawley (Clarkesworld) Science Fiction stories should introduce a world too weird to be possible and too compelling to be ignored. This story hits the mark on those two levels and so many more. The craft here is notable, Pawley able to conjure up entire post-human societies in the space of time it takes a person to swim to the surface and back.
  • The Red Light is Blinking by Kealan Patrick Burke. (Nightmare) The Red Light is a rather troubling piece seemingly one pitch away from being the next Blumhouse horror movie. Having watched my fair share of Blumhouse films I don’t mean this as a criticism. The writing was taut and effective but also nasty and morally questionable. Just the way horror should be some might say.
  • Poof! by Laura Walden Rabb (Driftwood) A literary speculative piece about an artist striving to reimagine painting for the future. After first creating moveable paint Marx Shepherd invents disappearing paint. All of his work will at some point disappear and the story uses this idea to point to something interesting about the nature of art and life. A small but entertaining story.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 


SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.


Novels:
I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

Review of "Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste

Part of the reason American Gods works is that it offers a kind of reward to folk lore mavens and religious study majors. Do you have a working familiarity with obscure Northern European mythologies? Are you able to describe what Neil Gaiman got right and what he fudged a bit in terms of the Egyptian religion? Then the guessing games of that novel - just which Middle Eastern Goddess is this? - magnify its other charms. 
"Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste (released by Broken Eye Books), is a novella for people, like me, who are waiting impatiently for the next season of Bryan Fuller's show. It's not set in that universe, certainly, but approaches the question of folklore from a similar perspective. Namely, that myths have a definite, physical explanation and your knowledge of such things will expand your enjoyment of the work. In the case of Pretty Marys, the stories are urban legends and nursery rhymes about young women. The main character, Rhee, is named…