I am currently reading Dangerous Women, an anthology of short stories edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. I admit that when I first bought the book I thought that it would be purely fantasy but I am so glad that it isn’t. The mixture of genres has actually led me to read what I normally wouldn’t and consider new authors to try out.
In the introduction, Dozois explains that although women have proven to be every bit as dangerous as men in the real world, fiction has taken a while to catch up. And so, these short stories have been commissioned from writers of every genre to write to the theme ‘dangerous women’.
Some Desperado – Joe Abercrombie (Fantasy)
I have read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, given the incredibly descriptive murder and torture scenes. And from the character of Ferro in that series, he can obviously write dangerous women. I was pleased to see his name in the list of contributors.
This short story follows Shy, a fugitive being pursued by a band of crooks she had previously worked with. It looks at how desperation can make someone excruciatingly dangerous, particularly when they have nothing left to lose. And there are Abercrombie-style murders to whet the appetite too.
It was a good little story but I did feel that Abercrombie needs to explore his idea of women. Shy was VERY similar to Ferro from the First Law trilogy and I would have liked to see something a little different from him….. However, it was still a good little short story.
My Heart is Either Broken – Megan Abbott (Noir)
I liked this story but didn’t expect to. Not a genre I would ever pick up on its own, but this short story definitely had me wanting more.
It reminded me a little of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” in that the story is told from the husband’s point of view and we are discovering that his wife is psychopathic.
However, this story is told during a period when the couple’s child has gone missing. The blame is being laid on the mother because she is not acting like a grieving mother should – going out partying and drinking, getting a tattoo, etc. And for a while, we believe the husband is deceiving himself in believing his wife’s story.
He looks back at their first meetings and honestly, I found him a bit of a loony for thinking that she was all there…. But he figures it out in the end.
Although not a genre I would normally read, I liked the story. Abbot did an excellent job and I now want to try more stories in this genre!
Nora’s Song – Cecelia Holland (Historical Fiction)
I don’t know anything about English history under the reign of King Henry II but that wasn’t necessary to enjoy this story. It has made me want to know more.
The story is told from the point of view of Nora (Eleanor), the second-youngest daughter of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was well-written but felt less like a story than just a glimpse at a specific period of time. There was obviously some conflict between King Henry and Eleanor but we don’t see too much through the eyes of the child. Only after a Google search did I realise how dangerous Eleanor of Aquitaine was. Here it feels like she is just trying to undermine her husband than gain more political influence…. It felt more like a chapter from a novel than a good short story on its own….
However, it was enough for me to want to know more about the historical period. Not that that means much – I like to know everything about everything to be completely honest. And it did make me realise how much I’ve missed reading historical fiction. But I probably won’t be starting will Holland.
The Hands That Are Not There – Melinda Snodgrass (Science Fiction)
I liked the idea of the story but it left lots to be desired. The main story is framed by another, an angry naval personnel getting a story from a pub drunk. It just felt unnecessary to have that extra bit.
The story was told from a government official’s point of view, about his relationship with an alien stripper which resulted in his being genetically modified to become someone else so that she could take his place in an effort to overthrow the human government.
I liked the world a lot but wasn’t particularly fond of the story…. It was obvious that by becoming central in a plot to overthrow the government the stripper was supposed to be dangerous but it took us way too long to get there.
I would be interested in reading more by Snodgrass if it is set in the same world but my attention is captured by the world way more than the characters or actual plot.
Bombshells – Jim Butcher (Fantasy)
I really really enjoyed the characters in this short story. There were a few references to the Dresden Files series which I haven’t read but it didn’t take too long to catch up.
The story follows an apprentice wizard, Molly, whose master has recently died. A vampire friend asks her for help locating someone and they end up getting involved in a far bigger issue.
It was a great world full of mythological creatures and references (which I always love). The three women who save the day consist of a wizard, a werewolf and a vampire and they manage to achieve their goal with not only their power but also their feminine wiles and beauty. It did annoy me slightly that they were all supremely beautiful but they were also intelligent and well-written so I got over it.
I am now incredibly keen to read The Dresden Files and catch up on all I’ve been missing from this great author. The urban fantasy reminded me a little of Ben Aaronovitch whose books I adored!
Raisa Stepanova – Carrie Vaughn (Historical Fiction)
I didn’t like this one very much, however I appreciated the topic choice for an anthology on dangerous women.
The story follows Raisa Stepanova, a Russian fighter pilot during World War II. The period itself is pretty fascinating as is the Russian’s use of women during the war as active members of the airforce.
It started out well, with Raisa striving to become an ace pilot by making five kills in total. Her jealousy was a nice addition to the story – I hate perfect characters! It was interesting to learn that Russian soldiers missing in action were considered traitors and their families often paid the price. That too gave Raisa good motivation for her overwhelming determination to make kills.
However, the ending was poor. Her brother. who was missing in action, is miraculously rediscovered after Raisa is crippled when her plane goes down. And it ends with Raisa, a once promising fighter pilot, resigning herself to a life of teaching instead of doing.
Not a fan, but I’d still give Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville books a try – I like urban fantasy a lot. And this story was well-written even if the content wasn’t right up my alley.
Wrestling Jesus – Joe R. Lansdale (Normally writes Horror and Mystery but neither suit this story)
There were no dangerous women in this story. Just an old boxer pathetically obsessed with a woman who left him for a more successful boxer.
The story is more a coming-of-age story about a young boy in a bad neighbourhood who is trained to be a boxer by an old man who used to be successful.
The old man thinks the woman has a voodoo spell over him but the boy pretends to break it, thereby letting the old man regain control of his destiny. And when he has control, he dies.
It was a boring story – wrestling scenes just don’t hold much appeal for me. It was also predictable and dragged – not a good sign for a short story!
Neighbors – Megan Lindholm (Suspense/Fantasy)
Megan Lindholm also writes as Robin Hobb, whose work I absolutely love. So I was pretty excited to get into this one.
It is a beautifully written short story about an old woman, Sarah, and how she copes with ageing. A friend of hers with Alzheimer’s disappears and after that she begins to see another post-apocalyptic world where her street normally is, through a deep fog. Her children begin to think she is deteriorating and attempt to move her to assisted living, when all Sarah wants is her independence.
The story deals with many themes in a short amount of time – how families cope with their ageing parents, how the ageing feel and how it feels to think you are going mad. It was a lovely story and I adored the end – where Sarah finds a place to be herself, even with madness descending upon her, without her children interfering.
The real world sequences are so well-written that I didn’t think the fantasy elements were necessary. However, they did work within the frame of the story. It was lovely and dreadful in the same breath because of the themes it deals with.
And that’s all I’ve read so far! Will write more reviews as I get through the short stories!