Rouges – George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

I hesitate to call this a short story collection as at 21 stories across over 900 pages, the average length of these stories is over 40 pages. Rather it’s a collection of novellas, shuffled together from different worlds.

The list of contributing authors alone was enough for me to pick this up, it reads as a list of the best current sci-fi and fantasy authors. Of course it includes a new tale from Westeros, but also something from London Below, a a whole set of stories from worlds that only exist inside this book. From a world where thieves have their souls trapped in statues as a warning to others, to a mystery set in a  multiplex cinema  through a club in the roaring twenties where possibly not everyone is human.

It is impossible to pick a favourite from this set, but the contribution from George R. R. Martin was a definite disappointment. Dry, dull and only explained that there had been a whole heap of infighting and grudges in the past. So don’t get it for that story, but it was just a bit of a damp squid at the end of a generally fabulous collection.

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A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String – Joanne Harris

I have only read one of Harris’ short stories before, in Stories a few years ago. I hadn’t even noticed she had a collection out until I stumbled across this in the library.

A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String is definitely the sort of book one should stumble across. A miscellanea of tales, from ones where magic is true, or Gods walk the earth, to a duo of elderly ladies who are determined to outwit the staff at their nursing home showing us that magical events happen without true magic. It is the sort of selection that needs reading in front of a fire over Christmastime.

The only one that didn’t ring true was the Twitter ghost, and only then because I have a suspicion that most of that could be programmed maliciously into various social media services now, so I was waiting for the other boot to drop in terms of the realisation that was what it was.

All in, a good selection and one I may be giving as a Christmas present this year.

Stories – Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Stories is a collection of short stories from many of the modern popular authors. Fantasy authors are mixed in with more mainstream, and all have written a new short story for the book. Inspired by the phrase “And then what happened?” the book is full of gems.

My favourite story was by Joanne Harris. Called Wildfire in Manhattan, it tells of a Manhattan where gods are hiding from each other and other supernatural beings, and is almost worth the full anthology alone. I also found Elizabeth Hand through this book, with a beautifully written story about early flight and love.

Modern Classics of Science Fiction – Gardner Dozois (Editor)

Modern Classics of Science Fiction is a collection of classic science fiction short stories. The anthology is well chosen, and has an short introduction on each author before their story. This may have been better done as a footnote however as I read the stories then decided whether I wanted to read more by that author, and ended up spending a lot of time moving back through the book to return to the notes on the author. A well-selected group of short stories, which are generally strong and build a good sense of the world they exist in. Dozois does seem to prefer stories with a bitter-sweet ending, as almost all of the stories here have one. I have spent months dipping into this book one story at a time, and every story was worth reading. The best of the anthology was definitely R.A. Lafferty’s Narrow Valley. This detailed a potential homestead in the American West which no-one had ever been able to claim. It has definitely put Lafferty on my Authors to Read list.