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Friday, October 7, 2011

Various Works of Short Fiction

There aren't a lot of reviews out there for short fiction that isn't included as part of a published collection or anthology.  With the advent of eReaders more and more short fiction is making its way into the marketplace on it's own.  And that's great news!  So what follows are a series of 1-2 paragraphs reviews of a bunch of short fiction I've read recently.  I'm going to try to make this a semi-regular thing.  Hope you enjoy it.


Fingers by Marian Coman (read here):

I heard about Marian Coman from two sources - Bastard over at Bastard Books, who Coman "cold called", and Jeff VanderMeer, some author guy (blog post here).  Coman is a noted Romanian novelist and journalist. He is the editor of the daily lens – Voice Braila. He has two collections of stories published in Romania, and he won a prize from the European SF Society.

In an effort to get some traction with English publishers, he's taken it on himself to have some of his shorts translated.  I got a copy of four stories of which I successfully read one - Fingers.  Unfortunately, the translations of the other three were just too rough for me to get through.  I suspect the translator did a very fair translation, but ended up with a lot of awkward sentences that I couldn't force myself through.  I found myself restructuring the sentences in my head.  I realized that Coman is very talented and I have a feeling with a more experienced literary translator the results would be impressive.

Fingers though is very good even with some translating hiccups.  It's an interesting story about a young man with wart that seems to carry part of his personality inside it.  Haunting, eerie, and a little gross, it works beautifully as a psychological horror short.


The Stars and Rockets by Harry Turtledove (read here):

Meh. And that's surprising given that it's well written and contains baseball - my favorite thing in the world.  This is story about a minor league baseball player that operates a gas station in the off-season.  One day he's paid a visit by a rather unexpected visitor after which he goes on to have a historic season.

It's a little fun and a little quirky, but never quite asks the kind of questions I want to ponder at the end of this kind of story.  I will say the main character is really well drawn and worth the price of admission on his own.


Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson (read here):

Sanderson does two things so well in everything he writes - plot and setting.  Sometimes his characters are a little one dimensional and sometimes his prose doesn't leap off the page, but his stories - long or short - are always a blast to read.

In this one Sanderson tells the story of a young man expected to become a genius in the art of war.  He's not.  Despite his best efforts to convince his superiors that he isn't going to become the savior they expect, they force him into command.

This could easily have been a short novel.  Definitely recommended!


Travelers Rest by James Enge (read here):

This has been available for free from Pyr for a while.  It's a longish short story that introduces Morlock, Enge's protagonist from his novels.  Unfortunately, that's just how it feels - a story to give us a taste of what Enge is all about rather than a short story with a purpose.  For someone looking to find out if they want to invest some money into Enge's book, I definitely recommend it.  Otherwise? I could take it or leave it.


The Viscount and the Witch by Michael J. Sullivan (read here):

As far as I'm concerned Sullivan can do no wrong.  His Riyria Revelations is one of my favorite series.  They're just so much FUN to read.  For the first time, in a long time, none of Sullivan's novels are available for sale.  Orbit has bought the rights and will be releasing them over several months starting in November with Theft of Swords (which I'm reading right this minute for review).  He released this story to give us all something to read while nothing else is available.

To those who've read Riyria, this is a great little story about how Royce and Hadrian meet up with one of their friends for the first time.  To those who've never read Sullivan, it will be a great introduction to his style.  There's no action to speak of, but it reflects Sullivan's deftness with character and tone.  It's a sword and sorcery short without any sword or sorcery.  And it doesn't need either.

All that said, this is a lot more of a peep and a taste into Sullivan and his world than a true short story.  Recommended for fans of Riyria and to readers interested in what Sullivan is all about.  For everyone else it's not exactly a dynamic story.


The Nemesis Worm by Guy Haley (read here):

I read and reviewed Reality 36, Guy Haley's debut novel from Angry Robot Books.  It was a great science fiction detective buddy novel featuring AI private investigator Richards and his kick-ass ex-military cyborg partner Otto.  Haley also released a Richards & Klein novella (more a long short story) that gives the reader a look at his two protagonists working a case just before the start of his novel.

For someone new to Haley's world I'm not sure this would be a great introduction.  There's quite a bit of world building primer built into Reality 36 that the short fiction doesn't have the room to provide.  However, the story does delve into some larger questions about humanity, singularity, and what makes something human.  It's not heavy handed, but it is well done.

Beyond that, it's also a pretty action packed 'case file' story that provides some welcome history to Richards - the advanced AI part of the tandem.  Highly recommended to fans of Haley's novel and worth a go for SF fans in general.


I'm working on a another post including works from Saladin Ahmed, Felix Gilman, Peter F. Hamilton, and others.  Stay tuned!

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At October 9, 2011 at 1:06 AM , Blogger Mihai A. said...

Marian Coman is a very talented author and "Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories" is just a small sample of his writing. Both his volumes, "White Nights, Black Days" and "The Chocolate Testament" deserve to be translated into English and I hope they would be someday. I also hope that Marian Coman will release some more of his works soon as well :)
I am not an expert, since English is my second language and self-taught too, but comparing the Romanian and English versions of the stories I found them pretty well translated.


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