starlady: (jack)
[personal profile] starlady
I only got about halfway through the vampire anthology By Blood We Live before I had to return it to the library, which says something about the level of interest the book created and sustained in me. John Joseph Adams definitely takes the "spaghetti at the wall" approach to anthologizing; the stories in this volume range over nearly 40 years and several continents, though as always I could have done with more stories by people not from Euro-American countries--I thought some of the best stories were those that came from outside those places. I'm also not a fan of the little spoilery introductions at the head of each story; I don't need an editor to tell me what to think about apiece in a cutesty tone. Also, despite the popularity of some authors, some of these stories are just bad, or indifferent, which to my mind is even worse than being actively bad.

  • Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples" -- I've read other retellings of "Snow White" from the Queen's perspective, but I think this is the one that is most convincing, because Gaiman doesn't try to make both women objects of sympathy. A fairy tale must always have a villain, especially when it has vampires.
  • Harry Turtledove's "Under St. Peter's" -- Good, but I prefer Garth Nix' take on some of these same concepts in "Infestation."
  • Michael A. Burstein, "Lifeblood" -- I can't pretend to be able to speak to the issues of assimilation the story raises; I thought the concept was interesting, but frankly the dialogue sounded a bit wooden, which in turn made the whole thing seem a trifle heavy-handed.
  • "Endless Night" by Barbara Roden was a standout for me; it takes brio and vision to combine vampires with the great age of Antarctic exploration, but Roden pulled it off beautifully, and with a notable mastery of tone.
  • I reread Garth Nix' "Infestation" just for the sheer pleasure of it. Though I always enjoy them, Nix' short stories can sometimes be a little flip, but this one is pitch-perfect throughout. And the zingers in the second half are awesome.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "The Beautiful, the Damned" seemed to me sort of...bloodless, pun intended. I can buy F. Scott Fitzgerald as a revenant from the Jazz Age, somewhere between Gatsby and Valentino in his looks and appeal, but Rusch's pastiche seemed to cut the heart out of Fitzgerald's novel.
  • By contrast, Norman Partridge's "Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu" was an excellent rewriting of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I don't even remember Quincey Morris, but Partridge gives him--and Lucy Westenra--an appealing afterlife.
  • Sergei Lukyanenko's "Foxtrot at High Noon" is mildly clever and, more importantly, brimming with style and detail. I've been wondering about non-Anglo-European sff for a while now, particularly since I read the fourth part of Bolano's 2666, which involves a 1930s Soviet sff novel that doesn't exist about a trip to Mao's China...

I also read M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts!, which I've been trying to track down since the spring and which is pretty funny. It's on the one hand a knowing pastiche of those sorts of children's entertainments, like Little Orphan Annie, of a certain era, but it's also an enjoyable story about ordinary girl Lily, who saves her state from invading whales on stilts with laser eyes, defeating her dad's evil boss Larry, with help from her friends Jasper Dash, boy technonaut, and Katie Mulligan, girl adventurer. I love Anderson, and have ever since I read the first half of his masterpiece Octavian Nothing, which is nearly mythic in its tone, scope, and subject. Whales on Stilts! is in all respects a much lesser effort, though it's very clever and very funny and Anderson's narratorial voice is quite amusing, somewhere between Lemony Snicket and pure snark. I wouldn't mind reading other volumes of M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales, but, despite the sheer awesome that is the title (and, for that matter, the cover), I'm not sure how long this book will remain on my shelves.

I was a bit disappointed in Tove Jansson's Moominsummer Madness, too. I loved Moomintroll Midwinter because it was so wintry and so intensely seasonal, but despite the fact that it has summer in the title, Madness is less about summer than about the travails of the Moomin family after a volcano floods Moominvalley and they are forced to tread the boards in the semi-abandoned theater in which they find refuge. It's a sweet book, of course, and very charming, but nowhere near as awesome as Midwinter, and since I involved the book in an epic coffee spill, I won't be able to pass it along the literary circle of life.