Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.
An anthology centered around voices too often overlooked, this anthology was funded through a kickstarter. I was a backer. The short version of this review is that I am delighted such a collection exists.
I started reading this anthology forever ago, picking it up a story at a time in between other books. In part because I didn’t want the anthology to end, but mostly because I wanted to give myself time to consider each individual story. These being so far removed from the usual fare that makes up my beloved corner of genre.
I also realized rather quickly that the best way to write this review would also take forever. Basically, what you see below is the result of me writing my initial reactions to each story, and then coming back for a second pass after some time to consider each one and before reading the next. Some I didn’t touch at all after the initial reaction, but some I found myself staring at what I’d originally written and wondering what the hell I was talking about.
Also, since these are all short stories and novelettes, I am trying to say as little about plot and setting as possible. Discovery being so much the interesting part of many a short piece. I fear this has left these descriptions a bit incoherent, but I really don’t want to spoil anything here if I can avoid doing so.
“Ogres of East Africa” by Sofia Samatar. Per expectation, Samatar writes beautifully, but I’m pretty sure I failed to grasp even half of what she’s laid out. The piece is more a metaphor for the collection than a story. The content divided between an imagined bestiary and the footnotes scribbled in the margins. As much a pleasure to read as to contemplate.
“The Oud” by Thoraiya Dyer. This feels like it will hold up well to multiple rereads. Really interesting, but a bit beyond my grasp. I feel like I need to do more research into the setting before I can come at this one properly.
“Free Jim’s Mine” by Tananarive Due. I’m not really a fan of campfire style endings, so I liked this until the last page. That’s really just a difference in preferences, though.
“Ffydd (Faith)” by S. Lynn. Really interesting Welsh tale that I could have kept reading for the length of a novel.
“Across the Seam” by Sunny Moraine. Both very interesting and not very captivating. I pretty much always fail to get into things that include Baba Yaga.
“Numbers” by Rion Amilcar Scott. Gangsters and sirens, what’s not to love.
“Each Part Without Mercy” by Meg Jayanth. The only downside to this story is discovering that so far there are only two other Meg Jayanth stories out there when what I really want is a hundred of them. Though she appears to also have written a text based online game called Samsara (which looks to be related to this story) and was involved in an iOS game inspired by Around the World in 80 Days (update: that I’ve now played through several times and just adore the heck out of. $5 well spent, that.).
“The Witch of Tarup” by Claire Humphrey. This is both interesting and not particularly exciting. Lots of neat ideas and characters, but less a plot than a sequence of events.
“Marigolds” by L. S. Johnson. Excellent story. One of the best in the anthology. If asked, I’d claim to be done with stories about brothels, but apparently that would be a lie. But I have a soft spot for blood magic.
“Diyu” by Robert William Iveniuk. This did not take the turn I expected, but the one I really wanted.
“Collected Likenesses” by James Hatley. Strong story, interesting characters, and a bit of a gut punch. Bittersweet and perfect.
“Angela and the Scar” by Michael Janairo. I’d like to read this one to my niece – or I would have if she weren’t now too old for bedtime stories. This is a lovely little story about a powerless girl granted a chance to change one battle’s fate.
“The Colts” by Benjamin Parzybak. I don’t know what I can say about this one that isn’t a massive spoiler. I’d really like to know what these three get up to next.
“Nine” by Kimba Jones. An excellent story all around. Can we call this one a fairy tale?
“The Heart and the Feathers” by Christina Lynch. I think I found the idea more interesting than the execution.
“A Score of Roses” by Troy L. Wiggins. Not my cup of tea. No complaints, just not for me.
“Neither Witch Nor Fairy” by Nghi Vo. A young man feels he’s different and fears he’s a changeling. Lovely execution. So rich a world, so powerful a conclusion in so few words.
“A Deeper Echo” by David Jon Fuller. This felt like the opening for a really interesting novel, but wasn’t quite satisfying as a short story. Shape shifting Native American tries to bring his family back together is far larger a concept that I’d love to see explored.
“Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” by Ken Liu. Lovely, as expected. And sad, as expected. The predictability of each scene is irrelevant as each is so gorgeously executed.
“Jooni” by Kemba Banton. Very sad, and very fulfilling.
“There Will Be One Vacant Chair” by Sarah Pinsker. This feels more like a chapter in a longer story. Or maybe I need to think that so I can see the narrator as having some value beyond recording the life of a man.
“It’s War” by Nnedi Okorafor. Yes, it is, but that’s backdrop to this lovely character piece. I don’t know that I got much out of this besides a desire to pick up her next novel.
“Find Me Unafraid” by Shanae Brown. An interesting and wonderful tale. I liked this quite a bit, and will look for more from this author.
“A Wedding in Hungry Days” by Nicolette Barischoff. Also quite interesting. The paper discussed here was something that came up when we were in Hong Kong, visiting a friend’s father’s remains. I’d be interested in other narratives on this topic.
“Medu” by Lisa Bolekaja. Adventure and danger in the old west. I’m not a huge fan of westerns in general, but this is quite good.
“Lone Woman” by Victor LaValle. Very interesting, but a little slow for my tastes.
“The Dance of the White Demons” by Sabrina Vourvoulias. Again, this doesn’t feel like a complete story. This feels like the backstory of a powerful character in a super interesting UF.
The next volume of Long Hidden has been announced, and it will feature exclusively stories about children. I’m already excited.