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Short Story Podcast Reviews: July & August 2012

September 5, 2012

Time for another installment of podcast mini-reviews! Actually, time for one mini-review of a Kindle short story, and then a bunch of podcast mini-reviews! I ran through a bunch of podcasts in the past few months – times when I was caught away from my audiobook, or not in the mood for it, or just wanted something shorter.
Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

As I’ve said before, I’m doing these mini-reviews partly because I just think it is so neat that there is all of this fiction available for free, online, and that people will read it to you! For free! …and also because I am apparently incapable of consuming fiction of any kind without blathering my opinion about it all over the internet.

A Killer First Date by Alyxandra Harvey is a short story of the Drake Chronicles, falling between Out for Blood and Bleeding Hearts. In it, Lucy and Nick, despite the fact that they’ve been friends their whole lives, and dating for over a month, have never actually been on a proper date. So they plan a double date to the town carnival with Hunter and Quinn, but for Lucy and the Drakes, even a simple date is never free of the shadow of the feral Hel-Blair vampires. This was a fun story, very much in keeping with the rest of the series in that it feels quite a bit like an episode of Buffy. There’s more magic-y supernatural stuff than I was expecting, based on the rest of the series, but it didn’t seem out of place… and although it’s maybe a little spoilery (although the spoiler is who winds up together in the earlier books, which is not really a matter of any suspense), it would make a good introduction to the tone and fun of the series.
Buy it

My first three reviews are for short story podcasts from Clarkesworld Magazine.

Clockwork Chickadee by Mary Robinette Kowal is a story of how a clockwork chickadee and a mouse trick an obnoxious flying clockwork sparrow out of its wings. A cute and quick animal story (albeit with two of the three animals being mechanical) that almost had the feeling of an Aesop-esque fable.
Listen to it | Read it

When the Gentlemen Go By by Margaret Ronald is the story of a small town with an idyllic way of life – except for the fact that it’s difficult to leave, and that the inhabitants must occasionally sacrifice one of their children to the mysterious Gentlemen in order to preserve the quality of life for the others. This was really effectively – and creepily – written, doling out the clues to the story in little bits, and building up to a surprisingly emotional climax. I suspect I found it extra-creepy because I couldn’t stop picturing the Gentlemen from Buffy, even though that’s not how the story described them.
Listen to it | Read it

In Blue Ink by Yoon Ha Lee, a strange woman shows up at a teenage girl’s window, and takes her to humanity’s last battle, hoping that she will choose to turn the tide of the war at the end of the universe. I found this one a little too ambiguous to be really effective. It was an interesting idea and had some interesting repercussions but I think there was more story to tell, and it could have been developed a little more. The beginning and end were also written in 2nd person narration, which is so, so hard to do right.
Listen to it | Read it

The rest of my reviews come from short story podcasts from Podcastle.

Senator Bilbo by Andy Duncan takes place unspecified some time after Lord of the Rings, and involves a (different) hobbit named Bilbo, who has been elected to office on the platform of keeping the Shire for the Hobbits, and resisting the tide of goblin and human immigrants. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this one. It’s an interesting idea, and it’s clear that Duncan knows and loves the source material, but there wasn’t a whole lot of plot to it other than “racist hobbit is racist,” which left it feeling more like an extended political speech and less like a story.
Listen to it

The Girl With The Sun In Her Head by Jeremiah Tolbert is the story of a little girl who spends her days making chalk drawings of the sun, and dreaming of running fast enough to catch him… but does she really want that wish to come true? I liked this story well enough, but there were a wealth of worldbuilding details that seemed extraneous to the main storyline. Interesting in their own right, but I never quite got how they all fit together.
Listen to it | Read it

Clad in Gossamer by Nancy Kress is a take on “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; a prince jealous of his older brother and his new bride dons the invisible garments that only the pure of heart can see, with the intent of making a mockery of his brother and upstaging the bride… a trick that comes back to bite him in the (naked) ass. This story was really good, very clever, with a nice sort of double-cross-y air about it. At the end, I had to stop and think about how “The Emperor’s New Clothes” actually ended, because Kress’s version just seems so apropos.
Listen to it

Winter Solstice by Mike Resnick is a character sketch of Merlin, examining what it actually would mean to be living backwards through time – of having so much “future” in your past that you have started to forget things like antibiotics and space travel, and the terror of not knowing the answer to a question that you asked yesterday… which is actually your tomorrow. I never really got the whole “living backwards through time” thing; it sounds cool, but the mechanics of how it actually worked were never clear to me. On the one hand, Resnick explores some of the possibilities of how it might work; on the other, the mechanics of what Merlin can and can’t remember change even over the course of Resnick’s story, so I don’t know if I understand it any better now. Fun to think about, though. (Bonus XKCD!)
Listen to it

Ancestor Money by Maureen McHugh is the story of an ordinary woman who is perfectly content with her unchanging afterlife, until she gets a notification that one of her descendants has left her some ancestor money, and she must travel to Hong Kong (or, more specifically, Hong Kong’s afterlife) to claim it. In general, I think stories about the afterlife are interesting, and this one, that contrasts a vaguely-Christian afterlife with a vaguely-Buddhist afterlife, has some nice moments. But the ending didn’t have enough real resolution for my tastes, and the story isn’t the sort that will really stick with me.
Listen to it | Read it

What about you, readers? Listened to (or read) any good short stories lately?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 2:43 pm

    You’re the reason I’ve just subbed to Podcastle: I’ve gotten hopelessly behind on my listening (as you’ve suggested, some moods are perfect for podcasts and others aren’t, so I tend to go in bursts with it too) but I’m looking forward to sampling some of these. So thanks for recommending them!

    • September 13, 2012 3:09 pm

      BiP – You’re welcome! I can pick out my favorites, but taste is such a subjective thing, esp. for short stories, that you might be better off exploring on your own. I look forward to hearing about your listening experiences!

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