You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year's Best Fantasy 7

I've been reading Year's Best Fantasy 7, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, for several months now during workout sessions. It's a good book to have handy then because most of the stories are relatively short and easy to read while exercising.

The stories range from the light to the very dark, from modern fantasy to magical realism to high fantasy. Charles Stross' "Pimpf" is an entertaining and light story about a bureaucracy that deals with demons who sneak into online fantasy games. Both "The Potter's Daughter" by Martha Wells and "The Double-Edged Sword" by Sharon Shinn involve women in fantasy realms who must use their special abilities to help others. Geoff Ryman's story "Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)" is a dramatic story about modern Cambodia and the ghosts who terrorize a rich and shallow young woman. It begins, "In Cambodia people are used to ghosts. Ghosts buy newspapers. They own property."

I enjoyed Greg van Eekhout's "The Osteomancer's Son", a story about a young man's fight against a powerful Hierarch. Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Sea Air" involves a mother and son who move into a new seaside town and discover that not only is there a big town secret, but the boy's somehow drawn to the ocean even though he's afraid of water. "I'll Give You My Word" by Diana Wynne Jones is a story about a boy and his special brother and how they fight off a coven of witches led by their teacher. M. Rickert's "The Christmas Witch" is a strange story of a girl who may or may not be in an abusive family and wants to collect bones to make a witch.

The collection's set piece is "Hallucigenia" by Laird Barron. It's dark fantasy, really a horror story in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft. A middle-aged man and his young wife encounter something strange in an abandoned barn. The wife is brain damaged and disabled, with a crack in her head that will not heal. The husband suffers from dreams and vision of dark things creeping though his house. When he hires a private investigator to learn more about the strange property, he discovers a tale of ancient relics, a family with strange powers, and dark secrets. The whole story is infused with a sense of creeping insanity.

Fortunately the book ends on a lighthearted note with the fun "An Episode of Stardust" by Michael Swanwick, a fun caper involving a dwarf, a fox and a "donkey-eared fey."

The stories in this collection were pretty good, and a few shone out, like "Hallucigenia", "An Episode of Stardust", "The Osteomancer's Son", and "Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)". I like the mix of styles and genres. A-


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