Book Review #12- Down These Strange Streets edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

I enjoy these types of collections for the variety, for leading me towards interesting authors that I might not commit to a whole book by without getting a taste first. And, in this compilation, I re-discovered an author that I enjoy tons, and should have been reading more of his works.

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I didn’t finish all the stories, but the book went back to the library. Some of them didn’t catch my attention. It happens.

“Death by Dahlia” by Charlaine Harris Dahlia, who is a vampire and her friends (mostly vampires) live in a mansion. They are getting a new leader and there’s a party/.ceremony and werewolves, human blood donors and demons are invited. Then there is a murder! And Dahlia is somewhat of an amateur detective and is selected by the new leader to investigate! Honestly, I’m under the impression this fits in somewhere with some other Dahlia lore that I haven’t read. As a stand alone story, it’s useless. Why do I care about all these werewolves? Why do I need to know about a half-demon Dahlia used to date? I don’t! It should have been a regular murder mystery without all these weird side characters.

“The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R Lansdale Even more unfortunate for Charlaine… She was followed up by this tale. A coworker/horror enthusiaist gave me a copy of The Bottoms by Joe R Lansdale 7ish years ago and I frigging loved it, then I bought myself Mad Dog Summer (a collection of his short stories) and I loved that too.

From the first paragraph of “The Bleeding Shadow”, I knew I was going to like it: “I was down at the Blue Light Joint that night, finishing off some ribs and listening to the blues, when in walked Alma May. She was looking good too. Had a dress on that fit her the way a dress ought to fit every woman in the world.” Alma May, makes her living as a prostitute, Richard (main protagonist and narrator) is sweet on her and wishes she had a wealthy man to take care of her. He’s not that man. But he does some detective work, some private eye type stuff on the side, and Alma May asks for his help. It seems her brother, a blues musician, has sent her this record, starts out; it’s the best music she’d ever heard him play… and it makes the shadows come creep out of walls, the hair on your neck stand up and the air getting inside your chest feel like mice wearing barbed wire coats.

Now the alarms in my head from the moment Alma May said “blues musician” I was already screaming, “Robert Johnson! Deal with the devil! Cross roads!” And I wasn’t wrong. Lansdale’s gritty writing style, like Dashiell Hammet telling you a campfire story, makes it gross and wonderful. Got my attention and kept it right away.

“Hungry Heart” by Simon R Green This was a good story, another Private I., hired by a witch to find her heart and the man who stole it, literally. Takes place in a bright colorful world where even side characters have rad powers, ie; Gunboy who can shoot with a conceptual gun (his fingers), awesome.

“Styx and Stones” by Steven Saylor

“Pain and Suffering” by SM Sterling

“It’s Still the Same Old Story” by Carrie Vaughn Carrie Vaughn’s most popular works are the Kitty Norville series (she’s a werewolf) I’ve only read the first in that series, on a 3 day long stint on a greyhound bus bound for SoCal. I also read a couple Harlequin romance novels, really silly shit with farm hands and billionaires.

This story is nothing like that. It’s about a vampire named Rick (and/or Ricardo) who made a friend named Helen in 1947. Helen made deliveries for the Mafia and ended up witnessing something she shouldn’t have. When Helen turns up dead suddenly, shot at over 90 years old, Rick looks into it ahead of a detective who knows good and well what he is. It’s told through flashbacks to the 1940s and present day. Good read.

“The Lady is a Screamer” by Conn Iggulden A story about a conman who was never going to be a good man but didn’t want to be a complete fake. He made money hustling widows out of money with phony psychic readings. It sounds worse than it is, he always left them with a smile on their face, gave them some piece of mind about their dead lovers. One day he gets a call, someone wants him to remove a spirit from her house. He charges her an outrageous fee, makes his plan to burn some feathers and chant some Mickey Mouse. But the he gets there and meets the Lady, a spirit who won’t stop blowing in his ear, and sets out to be a ghostbuster. Very funny, a little sad, a clever tale.

“Hellbender” by Laurie R King Excellent story. A Grad student whips up some modified embryos containing a mixture of human and salamander DNA. A right wing Christian group declares that these are “people” “babies” “God’s creations” and enlist female church members to carry the embryos to term. The resulting children are SalaMen. Some of them look more like salamanders than others, some regenerate better than others, most undergo a surgery to make them look human. One of these creatures uncovers a plot by rogue geneticists to capture and run tests on the SalaMen to benefit humans at large. This one was well told, another private eye story, not as much swagger as Lansdale, but all in all; a really well told Sci-Fi story that combines elements of both religious fanaticism and bioethics gone awry.

“Shadow Thieves” by Glen Cook

“No Mystery, No Miracle” by Melinda M Snodgrass

“The Difference Between a Puzzle and A Mystery” by MLN Hanover

“The Curious Affair of the Deodand” by Lisa Tuttle

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” by Diana Gabaldon This is the first story a turned to, It was one of the stories advertised on the back cover. It’s 3x longer than most of the other stories. Set in Jamaica in olden times when people came over on ships with sails. It doesn’t fit my definition of Urban Fiction, and it moved very slowly.

“Beware the Snake” by John Maddox Roberts

“In Red, With Pearls” by Patricia Briggs A werewolf Private Investigator! A zombie assassin! These are all my favorite things! The werewolf PI teams up with an interesting couple of witches to find out who is trying to assassinate his lawyer boyfriend (that’s right. They are in a healthy same-sex relationship. They face discrimination. Because the real world has fucked up shit, not any of this, ‘they discriminate against me because I’m a werewolf’ hoo-ha). This one was fun, some other stories had a more serious tone, this one was funny, but very smart and interesting. Definitely one of my favorites in the collection. In fact, *ding ding ding* Patricia Briggs wins! What does she win? Me, starting the Mercy Thompson series.

“The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Denton

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