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December 6, 2013 / minusbar

Short Fiction Reviews: William Leisner, Ramsey Campbell, Diana L. Paxson

So this is my first of what will be many reviews of works of short fiction. I’ve long struggled with how to share my thoughts on an anthology as a whole, and I’ve finally come to the decision that I personally cannot. Instead, I’ve opted to review the stories individually. I’ll work my way through multiple books at the same time and periodically update on the blog with the recent reads reviews. Information on the anthology that the stories come from will be made available for your convenience, should you wish to explore any of them further.

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Find my name by Ramsey Campbell (from Fearie Tales by Jo Fletcher Books, 2013) 

Edited by Stephen Jones, Illustration by Alan Lee

A bit about the anthology: Okay, so the Fearie Tales anthology focuses on retelling fables and classic folk legends and classics, describing them as ‘Grimm and Gruesome.’ Having some of my favorite authors involved, I decided to expand my reading genre a bit and pick this one up, despite knowing it’s geared a bit more on the horror spectrum than I usually review.

This story is a re-imagining of the Rumplestiltskin  fable in a modern setting. It’s more suspense than horror, and seemed to be most interested in giving you the heebie-jeebies for creepy weirdness than making you bite your nails or hide under a blanket. Nonetheless, I did find the macabre setting to be interesting. The villain of the story has a mocking, sort of tongue-in-cheek way of haunting that I found amusing. For a short story, I would have liked for the pacing to be a bit more upbeat, but I definitely see why it wasn’t; the slower delivered eerie grim mystery required the extra time to sink in and get under your skin.

****

The Year Without a Santa Claus by William Leisner (from ReDeus: Divine Tales by Crazy 8 Press, 2012) 

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Edited by Robert Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg, Cover by Anton Kokarev

A bit about the anthology: The premise for Redeus: Divine Tales is that all of the gods from every religion have come back to earth, literally all of them. Naturally, that could lead to more than a little bit of a problem for us humans. The premise for this one really intrigues me and I’m a big fan of mythology. While I’m not familiar with any of the authors by name, I’m looking forward to being introduced to some fresh voices.

The title of this story made it a perfect fit for a bit of holiday season reading, am I right? Okay, so this story really hammers the anthology theme home. The returned gods demand patronage try to assert themselves, and in a short period of time they change everything about our normal lives. This story has a lot of religious implications and also has a strong message about the resilience and will of people to resist oppression and servitude. It’s a good message and a fairly quick read. While it didn’t blow me out of the water, it was definitely a very competent story. The writer also gets some bonus points for using a lesser known god like Jiibayaabooz; because nothing says ‘worship me’ like a giant bunny!

****

The God-Sword by Diana L. Paxson (from Excalibur by Warner Books, 1995)

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Edited by Richard Gilliam, Martin H. Greenberg, and Edward E. Kramer, Cover by Paul Youll

A bit about the anthology: Over 25 stories and poems about Excalibur, the mythical sword of Arthurian legend. If that’s not enough to intrigue you, well how about stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley, Charles de Lint, Diana Gabaldon, Mercedes Lackey and many more? There are a few other heavy hitters in here, but name dropping is tiresome. Suffice to say, this lineup is loaded. Due to some bargain shopping, this little gem fell into my hands. While I was too young to know about it and enjoy it in ’95, I am sure I’ll love it now.

Stories like this one are why I read short fiction. It’s impressive when an author is able to write such a complete story in so few words and pags. Diana somehow manages to balance the action, courage and overall spirit of an Arthurian legend. The story is very well paced, and the story was surprisingly very heatfelt, in no small part due to a bittersweet ending that feels so very right for the hard times. Another thing I really enjoyed about this story is how it read a lot like a historical fantasy, downplaying the fantastical elements for a very genuine authentic feel. The world is not devoid of magic, but it’s contained in realism.

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Have an anthology or a short story you’d like to see me review? Here’s a link to my book review policy, which states the genres I read. For individual short stories, I do not require print editions: REVIEW POLICY!

I hope you all enjoy this new style of reviewing for short fiction. I’ve really enjoyed reading these first three stories, and I think breaking them up into individual stories instead of entire books will allow me to more accurately convey my opinions of the book content.

Thanks,

Roger Bellini

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