Review: DANGEROUS WOMEN – Various Authors

17279560In my new-found interest for short stories’ collections I ran across this one that promised interesting female characters and sported several names of authors I either already appreciate or I’m curious about, so I thought it would be a good starting point for new discoveries.  While the journey was a good one, in several cases I wondered where the danger represented by these ladies was: most of them are strong, capable women, but not exactly threatening, and in one particular instance there was no woman, dangerous or otherwise, carrying the tale – so that I suspected, at times that the anthology title was more of a sales pitch than anything else.  I have no reason to complain, though, because the ones that were interesting, or downright intriguing, kept their own stories flowing smoothly.

Neighbors – By Megan Lindholm aka Robin Hobb

Sarah, an elderly widowed lady living by herself, shows the first symptoms of a failing mind, and therefore keeps to herself the amazing things she witnesses on foggy nights…

The main character in this story is indeed an unreliable narrator due to her problems, and yet there are extreme clarity and realism in the everyday occurrences she goes trough, both on her own and while dealing with concerned family members: what she sees through her windows has all the marks of reality, and yet we readers cannot avoid wondering if it’s all the product of her progressively deteriorating mind – probably picking that up from the echoes of Sarah’s own inner doubts. But after a while it all ceases to be important, since all that matters is the poignant story and the excellent way it’s told, clear-cut and with no need for excess sentimentalism. One of the best offerings in the whole anthology.

Shadows For Silence In The Forests Of Hell – By Brandon Sanderson

Silence Fontaine runs a inn at the edge of the dangerous Forest, where shadows hunt the living and prey on them. When her way of life and the safety of her family are threatened, she will do anything to protect them…

I have to confess I never read anything by Sanderson before, and this story showed me I’ve been missing out on a good author – a situation I must correct as soon as possible.  Despite the shorter form, the world building is solid and convincing, and the characters stand out quite clearly, but what took hold of my imagination is the story itself: the creepy, not-fully-explained danger lurking in the forest is much more terrifying because of its indetermination, not in spite of it. The characters’ dangerous journey through that forest is one of the most adrenaline-laden stories I ever read, the fear of the unknown and the unseen becoming almost tangible. After this sample of Mr. Sanderson’s work, I’m certain I will enjoy his novels quite a bit.

Second Arabesque, Very Slowly – By Nancy Kress

In a post-apocalyptic future in which a plague has made most of humanity sterile, people run in packs for protection: an aging woman with nursing skills, attached to one of these packs, inadvertently shows to two members a glimpse of past beauty through old ballet videos.

Easily my favorite story in the whole book, and another discovery of an author I never read before.

There is a poignant dichotomy in the world as it is in Nurse’s times, long after the collapse, and her recollections of better times passed on in the words of her grandmother, so that Nurse sees both things as they are, but also imagines them as they were in happier times. Yet even more poignant is the discovery of beauty and grace by the two young pack members, who are so overtaken by what they see in the old video, that they are ready to flaunt the pack’s rules in pursuit of something they didn’t even suspect could exist, also convincing others of the rightness of their path.  I’ve always been partial to ballet, so this story had one more reason to resonate with me, but the contrast between the world’s stark, brutal reality and the glimpses of a better past is more than enough to reach a reader’s soul. Very moving.

Pronouncing Doom – By S.M. Stirling

Another post-apocalyptic Earth, where what remains of humanity, gathered in clans, must re-learn the old ways of living to survive. Unfortunately, some people seem quite attached to the old world’s worst sins…

When the world as we know it collapses, what do we do to keep a semblance of civilization? And better yet, how far are we ready to go? This is the dilemma that Juniper McKenzie faces when she needs to mete out justice on the wolf hiding among her flock, and the interesting part of the story comes from the decision she takes and the way she arrives at that decision. Unfortunately, the “flavor” of the story was marred by the little voice whispering in my ear that such huge changes in social customs, complete with neologisms, were a little too fast for a world that’s only one year away from the big catastrophe. But it was not enough to prevent me from enjoying the tale.

The Princess and the Queen – By George R.R. Martin

A few centuries before the time in which ASOIAF takes place, a brutal war for power is waged between branches of the Targaryen family, and takes the name of “Dance of the Dragons” because the fiery creatures play a major role in it.

In truth, this story was disappointing: I expected more from GRR Martin, some story that would expand my knowledge and understanding of the rich tapestry of Westeros, and the same satisfying characterization I’ve come to enjoy in his ASOIAF saga. Sadly, I found none of this: this looks more like an outline for a story, with an almost endless list of characters and deeds (mostly bloody and ruthless, but that’s Martin for you) and no perception of depth. It’s entirely possible that the author’s choice of relaying the events from an historian’s point of view robbed the narrative of any human interest, preventing me from feeling any attachment for the various figures depicted there. If I had come across this before taking up the first ASOIAF book, I don’t believe I would have given the saga a second thought.

Overall Rating:


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Posted on January 30, 2016, in Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I tend to veer away from short stories tbh but I have read a couple recently that I’ve enjoyed. Have you read The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – it’s really good, only about 150 ish pages but it really pulls you in.
    Lynn 😀

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  2. I’ve heard mixed things about this, but I’m not surprised given it is an anthology. I’m always nervous about picking up collections for this reason, because the quality of the stories can be all over the place. It’s disappointing to hear that not all these stories even feature a “dangerous woman” carrying the tale (seriously, what the heck?! Come on, editors, making sure of that should have been your first order of business, after all it’s only your anthology’s title!) I’m also often wary of stories that are set in the same world as some of my favorite fantasy series, which is what a lot of these types of collections feature. I may like the novels, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always like the shorts.

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    • Much depends on the editors’ choices, indeed, and in an anthology such as this there are always a few stories that are not of the same quality as others – and a few times this kind of unwelcome surprise comes from the most unexpected places, like otherwise good authors… But I always see anthologies as a way of sampling authors that are new to me, and I often end up with one or two names worth pursuing, so I can consider this a win-win scenario… 🙂

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  3. I have several anthologies on my Kindle but I always forget to pick them up. I have nothing against short stories but I don’t read enough of them and usually collections of shorts stories are pretty uneven…

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  4. I have the Rogues collection which I need to get stuck into. I’m sure you pretty much get a mixed bag in these anthologies but the odd gem is often worth it!

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  5. I was curious about this one, I like short stories at times and like others have said, anthologies are often hit and miss. I’ll admit I was primarily interested in the Martin story, but I’ve heard the same thing- not that great. And I appreciate that he likes to write gritty, but he tends to over do (IMO). Anyway, great review.

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