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Short Story Review Roundup: February – July 2013

August 16, 2013

Time for another installment of short story podcast mini-reviews! 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! I haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, so even though I haven’t been listening to podcasts recently at quite the same clip as I used to, this post is still a little overloaded with all of the short fiction I’ve consumed in the past six months.

Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

My reviews this time are for sci-fi/fantasy stories from a variety of sources. We’ve got some for podcasts from Podcastle, Clarkesworld Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tor.com, and then a few text-only stories, also from Tor.com.

First up, three short stories from Clarkesworld Magazine:

Celadon by Desirina Boskovich is the story of a girl whose mother was involved in the settling of a planet begins seeing visions of what might have been if things had been otherwise. This story was lovely and haunting and addressed something that pretty frequently gets overlooked when sci-fi talks about terraforming: what about the native ecology? I thought there were also some pretty interesting echos for our current civilization’s patterns of habitat destruction as well.
Listen to it | Read it

Herding Vegetable Sheep by Ekaterina Sedia is the story of a pilot who tries to reach out to her granddaughter in a world where the government has restricted all information regarding the world outside their country. The worldbuilding in this story is sort of oddly fragmentary, and I don’t know that it would support a longer piece of fiction. But I really enjoyed how swiftly, deeply, and honestly the relationships between the three generations of women are developed, and that’s the heart of the story. Plus, I learned that vegetable sheep is a real plant!
Listen to it | Read it

The Second Gift Given by Ken Scholes is a story about human evolution in the future, involving a large-breasted woman “awakening” a devolved man. This story was trippy and weirdly sexualized in an uncomfortable-making way, and not at all my cup of tea… which is exactly the same thing I said about “Looking for Truth in the Wild Blue Yonder“, the first Ken Scholes short story I listened to.
Listen to it | Read it

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Then a bunch from Podcastle:

The Small Door by Holly Phillips involves a bedridden girl who convinces her sister to spy on their creepy neighbor, who keeps animals in cages in his backyard, and occasionally takes them inside, although they never come back out. This summary makes it sound like horror, and for most of the story, you’re sure it is, or at least might be horror, and maybe it is, or maybe it’s something more, but what it definitely is is haunting and sad and lovely. The pieces of the story, the sick sister and the animals and the creepy neighbor all come together perfectly at the end in that way where you feel both hollowed out and heavy at the same time.
Listen to it | Read it

Nine Sundays in a Row by Kris Dikeman is a story of meeting the devil at the crossroads – the Dark Man will appear after waiting for nine Sundays, but for those nine Sundays, he sends his dog to watch over those that wait. I love a story with a good dog, and this one is narrated by a very interesting one. (You can’t really call a hellhound “good”, can you?) It didn’t end like I expected (or wanted) it to, but the ending managed to be quietly satisfying nevertheless.
Listen to it | Read it

The Tinyman and Caroline by Sarah L. Edwards involves a thief of very small stature who breaks into a rich house, and encounters a young girl who thinks he’s an elf and want him to take her to see Faerie, although the truth of the Dark Quarter is much more sinister. A lot of the set-up of this story reminded me of Dodger, which I had listened to not long before, so that was working in its favor. I also thought the set-up of the sinister goings-on and how they tied into the rest of the story was really effectively done as well.
Listen to it | Read it

Marsh Gods by Ann Leckie involves a young girl who is in a tough spot due to her elder brother who has gone missing, when she asks the marsh gods – who can’t lie – for advice. I liked this one a lot. I like mythology, I like stories that involve the interactions of gods and mortals, and the rules constraining what gods can and can’t do. This one has interesting worldbuilding, and a good sense of drama, although in the podcast there were a few places where the scene transitions weren’t clear.
Listen to it | Read it

Superhero Girl by Jessica J. Lee is the girlfriend of the narrator, who may appear to outsiders to be odd, or mentally ill, but it’s really because she’s a superhero. This story is short, and devastatingly effective. It manages to leave a lot of things ambiguous – is she really a superhero? is she lying? is she ill? – but in a way that I found lovely and vaguely magical, rather than annoying.
Listen to it | Read it

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Three from Beneath Ceaseless Skies:

Dragon Eyes by Margaret Ronald is the story of a hired fighter/torturer who joins a trader’s caravan, looking to learn the secret of the dragons’ eyes, and their connection to the royals of old. This story had a great sense of place, and I was immediately brought into that world. I also thought the relationships among the characters were organic and believable. Skald’s life in the city, and his motivation of joining the the caravan was a little hazier, but that was peripheral to the main thrust of the story, which was very good.
Listen to it | Read it

The God-Death of Halla by Tina Connolly is set in a world where the God speaks through his Mouth, and delivers his punishments by the hand of a randomly-chosen one of his subjects. Halla is an orphan, but the effects of the God’s touch upon her family have lingered, and are reasserting themselves on her life years after the fact. This was another one that I really enjoyed. Again, I like stories about the interactions between gods and humans, and I found this system interesting. This story was nicely complete unto itself, and unfolds its secrets neatly and at a good pace, but I would definitely read more in this universe.
Listen to it | Read it

Of Thinking Being and Beast by Michael J. DeLuca involves Boreas, the satyr beastmaster of the centaur city’s circus, who is caught between two powerful masters when he is asked to fix a fight. I liked the world, and I liked the character, and I liked even the brief flashes of humor in a fairly dark story, but it sort of felt fragmentary, like all of the pieces didn’t quite gel for me in the time allotted.
Listen to it | Read it

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One podcast from tor.com:

The Speed of Time by Jay Lake is a short piece told from a survivor of a rift in the universe, when the very nature of time itself has broken down. This isn’t really a story, per se, more of a philosophical musing, but it was original and fascinating and with the barest touch of black end-of-the-world humor.
Listen to it | Read it

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And finally, three free short stories (text, not podcasted) from tor.com!

Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today by John Scalzi is the story of a diplomat in Washington D.C. who is confronted by a group of schoolchildren and has to act as the spokesperson for her entire people… except they’re not people, they’re aliens. This had Scalzi’s normal sense of humor lurking under the surface, but it manifested less as snarky, and more as warm and charming, and was a cute and enjoyable read.
Read it

When We Were Heroes by Daniel Abraham is a story set in the Wild Cards universe, where a virus gives certain people superpowers, and is the story of one of the Aces, who uses her powers for good, comes to term with what her celebrity status really gets her, and how it interacts with her personal life. Although the parallels to our modern celebrity-obsessed paparazzi culture were pretty obvious, I like Abraham’s writing, and adding a layer where the celebrities actually *are* different from normal people (because of the superpowers) gave the story an interesting angle.
Read it

Olga by C. T. Adams is the story of a mage who is arrested for the murder of her sister and brother-in-law, and the theft of their magic… and then when she proves she didn’t do it, she sets out to track the one who did. This was a cool idea, and I liked the writing, but I think I would have enjoyed it more in a longer format. Both the romance angle and the resolution of the final confrontation happened too quickly for them to have as much emotional impact as they should have.
Read it

What about you, readers? Read (or listened to) any good short stories lately?

© 2013 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

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