Happy Fourth of July everyone! Hope you’re having a fun (and safe!) holiday if you’re in the US! We’re now past the half-way point of the anthology! I decided hat trying to split my attention this and a traditional novel just wasn’t working well, so now I’m going to press along with this until I’ve finished. 🙂
Title: The Meaning of Love
Author: Daniel Abraham
If it tells you anything, I got sidetracked before I could sit down to write this and by the time I was able to, I realized I’d almost already forgotten the story – and this was in a span of maybe 15 minutes? By comparison, when I wrote up A Year and a Day in Old Theradane it was after a full night sleep and I remembered it as vividly as if I’d just finished it moments before.
I will say that Abraham does set his scene well- perhaps too well. The start is slow due to a bit prolonged detailing of what the surroundings were like. And frankly, this kind of city is nothing new. It’s the hovels of most traditional fantasy, not to mention very reminiscent of real world Europe through the middle ages. There are some touches that make the city its own, but they have no real impact on this short and they aren’t enough to make a compelling argument as why so much time was spent on the description.
The story itself is mixed. The main story deals with Asa trying to rescue the woman that the man SHE would like to love from slavers…even though he knows her only in the Juliet on the balcony sense. She also makes a deal with a man fallen from power to protect him from those would seek to bring him to justice. The latter was more interesting, and perhaps had it taken more interest in that story it would have worked better. As it stands, it’s just kind of there. Not awful, but not memorable either.
Title: A Better Way to Die
Author: Paul Cornell
Genre: Science Fiction
One thing, for better or for worse that this anthology also has, are stories set in worlds that already exist. The two biggies in this anthology are of course the shorts for Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin which I’ll get to in due time. This, of course, makes a third.
I say for better, because fans of the worlds will unquestionably get a kick out of the story. I say for worse, because it means the stories won’t always be friendly to newbies. This is one of those.
On the one hand, the plot itself is intriguing and poses an intriguing question: how would you conduct yourself if faced with a younger version of yourself from an alternate (or in this case “optional”) world? On the other hand, this entire time I felt off balance. What the heck was the Greater Game. What was this talk of balance? They are concepts that you didn’t necessarily need to get the story itself, but there was a definite sense that understanding them helped to understand the context of the story, and bring tension to it. I got the sense that something was going on, but why it was important, I couldn’t say. And ultimately that hurt my enjoyment of the piece.
I still liked it better than some of the pieces I didn’t care for, but had I fully been aware of what was going on, I’d probably have loved it.
Title: I’ll Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor
Author: Steven Saylor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Here’s an example of how to write a short in an existing series for an anthology properly. Unlike A Better Way to Die which left me a little confused, I’ll Seen in Tyre is a well-executed piece that fits into its universe but also acts as a solid stand-alone story. Set in ancient Tyre, we are witness to a student and his teacher as the teacher reminisces about a local legend and magic that may or may not be affiliated with them. While you can guess the scheme at foot, I like the discussion of faith and magic and legend here. Plus, Tyre feels alive and vibrant. Where The Meaning of Love felt like it dragged for its overlong description of the city, Saylor does an excellent job here of giving us a sense of Tyre while keeping up a pace appropriate for the short story form. The characters too are also enjoyable and behave in a way that fits the time. The mentor is very much in the Socratic model and the student displays an openness in his sexuality that would have been appropriate for the time. This was a fun little short and might go onto my list of other works to check out down the road.