Short Story Round Up, Part 2


“Our King and His Court”

by Rich Larson
Read July 2020
Recommended for fans of Abercrombie, The Godfather
 ★     ★    ★    ★    1/2’s summary says it all. It’s a partially deconstructed story, one that gives the reader a moment, then goes back to a few isolated moments that lead to a crisis of conscience. Despite that, it still packs an emotional punch.

“He knows his way to the bone room by rote, but the walk seems unreal this time, something from a dream. He moves slower and slower. Partly the fault of the body: lactic acid seething in his muscles, bone-deep aches in his limbs. Partly the fault of the mind, of the familiar shadows reminding him that Mateo was the only bright thing ever born in this place.”

Although it takes place post-apocalyptic events, those aren’t really the point or the meat of the story. I’d definitely read more by Larson, although I’d treat him the same way I treat Abercrombie, and make sure I was in a mood for blood.

Our King and His Court


”Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory”

by Martha Wells 
Read September 2020
Recommended for fans 
 ★     ★    ★    ★    ★  

A quick little short that takes place after the quartet of novellas.

For the value of neutral that meant “whatever the highest bidder wants.” It’s difficult for Ephraim and the other councilors and her family and almost everyone else she’s spoken to since returning home to understand that. But none of them have any real experience with the Corporation Rim, except as a source of cartoonish villains in media serials.”

Yes, yes, yes. I get Dr. Mensah’s dilemma, I really do. This is the ethos that is gradually replacing the -isms that surround us, and there’s something about it that is equally sickening.

She knows SecUnit is not so much taunting her with its abilities as refusing
to pretend to be anything other than it is.

Just what I needed.


‘Dave’s Head’

by Suzanne Palmer in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 156  
Read August 2020
Recommended for fans of Palmer, dinosaurs
 ★     ★    ★    ★    

‘Dave’s Head’ is a short story about a woman, her uncle, and an animatronic dinosaur head (generic) on a road trip. Just a touch of bitter and frustration to make it feel emotionally real. I’m becoming a Palmer fan. I don’t think I’ve read anything of hers that’s under four stars.



by Amal El-Mohtar
Read August 2020
Recommended for fans of pockets
 ★     ★    ★    ★    

“The first strange thing Nadia pulled from her pocket was a piece of fudge. It was a perfectly ordinary piece of fudge. But Nadia hated fudge, and couldn’t imagine how she’d come to be carrying it around. She remembered this in particular because it was a bright, cool autumn day and she’d dug into her jacket pocket instinctively, looking for change to leave in a busker’s open violin case, and had come upon the piece of fudge instead. After staring at it awkwardly for a moment, she dropped it into the violin case and hurried away before she could see whether the busker was scowling at her or not.”

An interesting little story about a woman who pulls things out of her pockets and what it might mean. A little magical, a little reflective.

Uncanny Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015



‘How To Survive an Undead Honeymoon’

by Hailey Edwards
Read July 2020
Recommended for fans of Hailey Edwards
 ★     ★    

The series is wrapped up, but what, you are surely wondering, did Grier and Linus do on their honeymoon? Never fear, this novella answers the question and describes the sordid honeymoon events at a haunted bed and breakfast. Strangely, I felt like it was less ‘romancey’ than the prior series, so take that for what you will. It focuses instead on the investigation of the house. Are they ghosts? Poltergeists? What’s with the creepy owners? The lying kid? What’s Lethe hiding?

Something about it doesn’t quite gel. I don’t know if it’s my confusion/ambivalence at the solution to the mystery and situation, or at the sudden new turn personal events take at the end. It’s not bad by any means, but it just didn’t really live up to the promise of earlier books. Or maybe Quarantine Fever is finally wearing off.

Two and-a-half ghosts, rounding down to differentiate it from the 3 star reviews.



by Naomi Kritzer in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 160 January 2020  
Read August 2020
Recommended for fans of Kritzer, Teenage nostalgia
 ★     ★    ★    ★ 

Evocative and sad. An adult woman is in search of her childhood friend, Andrew, someone who befriended her when she felt alienated and developed a strong connection based on their nerdlike interests. The search requires going into a rural province in China, and as she travels, the narrator, Cecily, also travels back and forth in time.

It’s well done, but a piece that should be read more for the characters, their relationship and for the atmosphere over plot. There is a definite plot underneath the search, but it is given so little detail in the beginning that it has trouble ramping up the urgency, especially when it is reconciled with the nostalgia. There are a couple of small mistakes, one regarding eyes and one regarding encryption that I think make the impact of the story less powerful (or perhaps more so?) because the solution is so imperfect. Still, a sophisticated blend of past and present.

When I check my e-mail one last time before I go to bed, I have an e-mail from a mysterious address that says, Just like the story, sometimes sacrifice is required, Cecily, if everyone else is to survive.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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1 Response to Short Story Round Up, Part 2

  1. pdtillman says:

    Carol: “… make sure I was in a mood for blood.”
    Thanks for the warning, since I’m not. Maybe another time? I do like Larson, but not much grimdark.

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