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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: WDSF

Lightspeed Magazine, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue - Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, Nisi Shawl, Tracie Welser, Stina Leicht, Jennifer Willis, Mary Robinette Kowal, Pat Murphy, Galen Dara, Wendy N. Wagner, Katherine Crighton, Samantha Murray, Effie Seiberg, Cathy Humble, Holly Schofield, Kim Winternheimer, Ellen Denham, An

Kickstarter assures me, at the time of this writing, that 14 of the 19 projects I have backed have been works of written fiction – anthologies, magazines, novels. It’s the perfect hobby, requiring no effort or skill on my part. Do I need to disclose that I was a backer for this? I’m reviewing the special, limited edition one, so it may go without saying.


I started reading it on my Kindle as soon as it came out, but swapped to the print copy (with its lovely color art) as soon as it showed up. I might have waited, but I forgot my reward even came with a print copy. It had been a while.


Also, the print copy has an extra story in it.


Also, I know it's not June anymore, but I wanted to take my time reading this one, which appears to mean more than a month.


I’m pretty sure I’ve described the disappointingly familiar shape of anthologies before. Where the best story is frontloaded and the quality rapidly dives from there, followed by a few more strong entries in the middle and tapering off again? While I didn’t love everything in this one, it didn’t conform to this all too familiar shape, which is itself a refreshing change in my short fiction reading. Perhaps because it is a special issue, and not an anthology?


It’s also refreshing to find the ones I don’t love being simply a matter of taste, and not a glaring logical inconsistency or yet another attempt to feed me an unexamined toxic notion of romance or women’s roles in life. (One might argue that those are matters of taste. And one might find that I don’t take fiction recommendations from them after such an argument.) That being said, I’ll limit my review to picking a few favorites from this very strong collection of so much more than works of fiction.


“Each to Each” is the first piece of fiction and for me the strongest. I want to read the novelization - no, the trilogy - no, the trilogy of trilogies set in this world. I had no idea, having not read McGuire’s fiction before. Lots of you have told me to, and I’ve been meaning to. But I’ll be honest here, her fans love her with a kind of fervor that has put me off reading her. Because what if I don’t like her work? I’ve been on the wrong end of that conversation before – so much so I won’t even tell you whose work I’m referring to. Now? Okay, now I might be one of her legion of devoted fans. This story, on its own was worth backing this collection for.


“The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick” took a few pages for me to get into. But when I did fall into the groove of it, this was quite a bit of fun.


“The Lonely Sea in the Sky” is the short fiction version of my favorite parts of space opera [except welding].


“A Burglary, Addressed By A Young Lady” is yet another I wish were longer. I think this might be the start of a romance novel I could actually enjoy.


“Like Daughter” pinged pretty hard against a few novels I read in my teenage years. This is A Choice of Gods with bio-engineering instead of robots and without the racism. This is the upside down version of Fifth Head of Cerberus meets the inside out retelling itself.


“The Cost to Be Wise” is not my favorite McHugh, but might be the most representative piece of her work I’ve ever read. If you loved this one, and wished it had kept going, try Mission Child. If you thought this was kind of interesting, but too long, pick up After the Apocalypse. If this wasn’t your sort of thing at all, China Mountain Zhang might still be for you, but most of the rest of her catalog won’t work out.


The nonfiction interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick is excellent. Actually, all of the nonfiction and personal essays are worth a read through.


I think the only thing I really don’t like about the print version of this special issue is that it ends with ads for books that aren’t predominately female in content. The last page inside is an ad for a trilogy edited by Adams and Howey. I liked Wool quite a bit, but I also read Howey’s “Suck it, Hugo bitch” blog post before he deleted it and made a non-apology. I guess that post must still be bothering me since seeing his name be the last thing I saw before closing the cover stung a bit. That ad isn’t in the Kindle edition, so I’ll recommend that format instead. Or just skip the last page.