I love short story collections. They’re perfect for reading with a meal or while waiting for an appointment. You won’t get so involved that hours go by, but you get a little slice of great writing. I almost always have a short story collection stashed in the car or my backpack for emergency reading.
All I can say about this collection is Wow! Ms. Machado has done an amazing job of selecting some of the best SF and Fantasy published in other anthologies in 2019. They’re unusual, extremely well written, and pack a punch. Although I thought some of them were a little longer than they needed to be (that’s the short story writer in me), I had my favorites.
Whether it’s Death being captured by a spooky old house in “Pitcher Plant” by Adam-Troy Castro, players trapped in an unending opera in “Variations on a Theme from Turandot” by Ada Hoffman, or unlikely heroes saving a post-apocalyptic and diseased world in “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz, the topics are varied and riveting. The formats are unusual, too, and several of the stories are in tricky second person.
My favorite story is lengthy but covers the whole life of the main character. In “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory, a strange meteor shower releases thousands (millions?) of alien plants. The boy in the story grows up with the invasive plants taking over more and more of the Earth. As an adult, he joins other scientists in trying to find a way to stop (and figure out the why of) the encroachment. He and his husband have children and grandchildren, and one of them discovers an Earth bacterium in sea water that might restore the balance. It’s a great story of the struggle to survive while dealing with a developing personal life. Amazing.
A close second is “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” by LaShawn M. Wanak. Strange spores are killing people and the government “recruits” singers to destroy the “stumps” as they take on human form. Not only do these two famous singers face discrimination and distrust, but the government might also be weaponizing stumps and hiding their real nature. I love stories that incorporate historical figures in unusual ways.
I could go on and on. There’s not a stinker in the bunch, and I enjoyed (or sat riveted) at every one. I was amazed at the high quality, original concepts, and interesting formats (one story is recorded transcripts!). I recommend this to anyone who wants to catch a few moments of incredible writing between novels (or while reading a novel).