Quick Review: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCAn engaging, varied collection of short fiction

A love triangle plays out over decades on a Montana dude ranch. A hurdler and a gymnast spend a single night together in the Olympic village. Mistakes and mysteries weave an intangible web around an old man’s deathbed in Paris, connecting disparate destinies. On the slopes of an unfinished ski resort, a young woman searches for her vanished lover. A couple’s Romanian honeymoon goes ominously awry, and, in the mesmerizing title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a Hollywood cult.

Last year’s Great Circle was the first of Shipstead’s novels that I read. I loved her style and the way she wrote her characters. So, I was very much looking forward to reading her next book (as well as her back-catalogue). In You Have Got a Friend in 10A, Shipstead presents readers with a varied portrait of humanity, and the ways many of us cope with our situation and choices. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCI’m a newcomer to Maggie Shipstead‘s work. My first, in fact, was last year’s superb, gripping Great Circle. Since then, I’ve picked up the author’s other two novels — Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements — both of which I hope to read very soon. While browsing publisher catalogues, I also stumbled across the author’s next book: her first short story collection, You Have a Friend in 10A.

In this collection of dazzling stories, Maggie Shipstead’s prowess in short fiction is on full display for the first time. Diving into eclectic and vivid settings, from an Olympic village to a deathbed in Paris to a Pacific atoll, and illuminating a cast of indelible characters, Shipstead traverses ordinary and unusual realities with cunning, compassion, and wit.

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUKHCIn “Acknowledgments,” a male novelist reminisces bitterly on the woman who inspired his first novel, attempting to make peace with his humiliations before the book goes to print.

In “The Cowboy Tango,” spanning decades in the open country of Montana, a triangle of love and self-preservation plays out among an aging rancher called the Otter, his nephew, and a young woman named Sammy who works the horses.

In “La Moretta,” a couple’s honeymoon in the hills of Romania builds ominously into a moment of shattering tragedy. In the title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a religious cult, narrating with mesmerizing candor a story of vulnerability, loss, and the surrealism of fame.

You Have a Friend in 10A is sophisticated, gripping, and hilarious, comprised of knockout after knockout: a collection to seal Shipstead’s reputation as a versatile master of fiction.

Maggie Shipstead’s You Have a Friend in 10A is due to be published by Knopf in North America (May 17th) and Doubleday in the UK (May 19th).

Also on CR: Review of Great Circle

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: AFTERPARTIES by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)

SoAV-AfterpartiesUSAn engaging collection of short stories

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

Afterparties is the first and only book by Anthony Veasna So, who tragically passed away in December. I hadn’t read any of his short stories (many of which have been published elsewhere) before learning of this collection. As someone who is fascinated by California and an avid reader of fiction set in that state, I was intrigued by the alternative perspective this collection promised. I was not disappointed: Afterparties is an engaging, oft-endearing read. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: CREATIVE TYPES AND OTHER STORIES by Tom Bissell (Pantheon)

BissellT-CreativeTypesUSAn intriguing, varied collection of short fiction

A young and ingratiating assistant to a movie star makes a blunder that puts his boss and a major studio at grave risk. A long-married couple hires an escort for a threesome in order to rejuvenate their relationship. An assistant at a prestigious literary journal reconnects with a middle school frenemy and finds that his carefully constructed world of refinement cannot protect him from his past. A Bush administration lawyer wakes up on an abandoned airplane, trapped in a nightmare of his own making.

In these and other stories, Tom Bissell vividly renders the complex worlds of characters on the brink of artistic and personal crises — writers, video-game developers, actors, and other creative types who see things slightly differently from the rest of us. With its surreal, poignant, and sometimes squirm-inducing stories, Creative Types is a brilliant new offering from one the most versatile and talented writers working in America today.

I’d only read Bissell’s non-fiction before I gave Creative Types and Other Stories a try — specifically, The Disaster Artist and Magic Hours. With hindsight, the latter should have given me an idea of what to expect from this very good collection of stories (there’s some subject overlap). Each story is a snapshot in a character’s life, as they are forced to confront their current situations and question what they want, and even who they are. Continue reading

Quick Review: ACADEMIC EXERCISES by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-AcademicExercisesA superb collection of short fiction by one of the masters of the form

Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K. J. Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-winner, “Let Maps to Others”. The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of imaginative fiction.

The collection opens with the World Fantasy Award-winning “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” a story of music and murder set against a complex mentor/pupil relationship, and closes with the superb novella “Blue and Gold,” which features what may be the most beguiling opening lines in recent memory. In between, Parker has assembled a treasure house of narrative pleasures. In “A Rich, Full Week,” an itinerant “wizard” undergoes a transformative encounter with a member of the “restless dead.” “Purple and Black,” the longest story in the book, is an epistolary tale about a man who inherits the most hazardous position imaginable: Emperor. “Amor Vincit Omnia” recounts a confrontation with a mass murderer who may have mastered an impossible form of magic.

Rounding out the volume — and enriching it enormously — are three fascinating and illuminating essays that bear direct relevance to Parker’s unique brand of fiction: “On Sieges,” “Cutting Edge Technology,” and “Rich Men’s Skins.”

Taken singly, each of these thirteen pieces is a lovingly crafted gem. Together, they constitute a major and enduring achievement. Rich, varied, and constantly absorbing, Academic Exercises is, without a doubt, the fantasy collection of the year.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of K. J. Parker’s novellas and short stories. The novellas he’s published with Tor.com and Subterranean Press routinely are among my favourite reads of any given year. Academic Exercises is the author’s first big collection of shorter fiction, and it’s a fantastic one at that. I really enjoyed this, and it further cemented my opinion of Parker as one of the best authors of short fiction. Continue reading

Quick Review: INVOCATIONS by Various (Black Library)

WarhammerHorror-InvocationsReturn to the dark places of the worlds of Warhammer for a new anthology of sinister stories that dive into the arcane, the unexpected and the downright terrifying.

An Imperial Priest extracts a monstrous confession; a widower embarks on a doomed pilgrimage; a witch hunter returns to the place of his nightmares… Invocations is Black Library’s second Warhammer Horror anthology, featuring more short stories set in the chilling hellscape of the 41st Millennium and the arcane gloom of the Mortal Realms. From the whispering corridors of an abandoned medicae facility to the shrieking dungeons of ghostly castles, this collection of sinister stories further explores the unspeakable evil haunting in the worlds of Warhammer.

An interesting, engaging collection of horror and suspense fiction, set in the Warhammer science fiction and fantasy worlds. Atmospheric, creepy, and featuring varied protagonists, this is a solid anthology. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: LORDS AND TYRANTS by Various (Black Library)

Various-Lords&TyrantsA substantial, engaging collection of WH40k short fiction — perfect for long-time fans and newcomers

Many are the horrors of the 41st Millennium, from alien tyrants to dark lords in the grip of Chaos. But arrayed against them are champions of humanity, who fight to defend all that is good in the galaxy.

Wracked by the ravages of war, the galaxy has known no peace for untold millennia. To exist is to fight. To thrive is to conquer. Once-proud worlds lie in ruins at the hands of traitorous warlords and vile alien despots. Cowed by the unstoppable march of the Ruinous Powers, humanity stands on the precipice of oblivion. All hope is banished. Yet, there are many who take up arms against these horrors. Noble heroes of the Imperium sally forth to do battle while enigmatic Inquisitors explore the shadowy secrets of this benighted era. In the terror of the 41st Millennium, righteous lords and iron-willed tyrants clash to decide who is worthy of inheriting the galaxy.

Contents:
Argent by Chris Wraight
Lucius: Pride and Fall by Ian St Martin
Whispers by Alec Worley
The Battle for Hive Markgraaf by Justin D Hill
A Brother’s Confession by Robbie MacNiven
Rise by Ben Counter
Flayed by Cavan Scott
A Memory of Tharsis by Josh Reynolds
Left for Dead by Steve Lyons
Unearthed by Rob Sanders
The Aegidan Oath by L J Goulding
Hidden Treasures by Cavan Scott
Carcharodons: The Reaping Time by Robbie MacNiven
The Greater Evil by Peter Fehervari
The Path Unclear by Mike Brooks
Shadows of Heaven by Gav Thorpe

This is a pretty substantial collection of short fiction set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Sixteen stories, drawing together some fan-favourite characters and some new, I think it would serve very well as an introduction for anyone who has not yet delved into the extensive body of WH40k fiction, while also satisfying long-time fans of the IP looking for some quick-hits of sci-fi action and adventure. Continue reading

An Interview with KAMERON HURLEY

HurleyK-AuthorPic2019Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Kameron Hurley?

Honestly, I just got back from a book tour and am severely jetlagged, so I couldn’t really tell you. James S.A. Corey says I’m “one of the most important voices in the field”, though! That’s something. Always listen to the Coreys.

Your new book, Meet Me in the Future, will be published by Tachyon. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?  

Meet Me in the Future is a collection of my best short fiction to date. It’s got everything: a body-hopping mercenary who avenge his pet elephant, an orphan who falls in love with a sentient starship, fighters who power a reality-bending engine, and a swamp-dwelling introvert who tries to save the world from her plague-casting former wife. And that’s just off the top of my head. I wrote many of these stories with the support of my Patreon backers, and these are the best gems of the lot. Continue reading

Quick Review: AHRIMAN – EXODUS by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-AhrimanExodusA collection of short stories set in French’s Ahriman series

Ahriman, exiled sorcerer lord of the Thousand Sons, has many servants who do his bidding. Each has a tale to tell, but few as compelling as that of Ctesias the twice-dead, summoner of daemons. From an encounter with the mysterious Dead Oracle to the perils of the Hounds and Wrath and navigating the Gates of Ruin, Ctesias is a vital link in Ahriman’s grand plan. This is Ctesias’ tale, in his own words, of his trials and the great and terrible deeds he has performed in his master’s name. This is the chronicle of his path to damnation as he leads Ahriman to his exodus from the Eye of Terror.

Each of the short stories contained within this collection are told from the perspective of Ctesias, a member of the fallen Thousand Sons Traitor Legion. A sorcerer particularly gifted at summoning and binding daemons, he has been adopted into Ahriman’s war band, for a particular reason that his new master is keeping hidden. I had already read a few of the short stories contained herein, but the anthology was a nice way to have them all collected in one volume. As I expected, I enjoyed the collection. Continue reading

Review: THIRD WAR OF ARMAGGEDON (Black Library)

Various-Armageddon-ThirdWarSome connected WH40k short stories

Armageddon is a world engulfed by war. As the Third War for the planet rages on, the Imperial defenders sell their lives dearly to hold back the near-endless green tide of orks. On this world of battle, legends are forged and heroes made – but against the might of the greatest ork invasion in history, even the Imperium’s greatest warriors may not be enough to triumph.

This is a series of short stories that Black Library released over a single week (one a day) not so long ago. They are all connected to the “Third War of Armageddon”, a major conflict and world in the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi setting. Black Library have a history of releasing great short fiction, and there were certainly a couple of very good stories in this collection. Continue reading