A foray into Dieselpunk

Courtesy of goodreads.comMy go-to genres of books are Urban Fantasy and Steampunk. Obviously, considering my posts. But every so often I’ll venture outside my comfortable little world with sci-fi, straight fantasy (you know, knights and castles etc) and now, dieselpunk.

I just finished reading The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, an anthology of dieselpunk stories edited by Sean Wallace. I’ve never read dieselpunk before and the fact that the era is right in my historical wheelhouse (yeah, I’m a historian by schooling) and the awesome cover made me pick this bad boy up.

Like any anthology, there are good and bad stories. Some of the stories in the book are more like novellas than real short stories. That’s fine. But the all of these stories seemed just…too post-apocalyptic. Now, given the wide ranging time frame I felt this covered (WWI through WWII), that’s understandable. And yet…I really feel that it doesn’t have to be. There was so much going on in that time frame that was of a hopeful or fun nature: like Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart (before she disappeared), the advent of race culture (both cars and planes).

It was a little darker and a little more depressing than I thought it would be given the cover. The 1920s, 30s and 40s are the height of pulp fiction and radio shows. There’s so much that authors could do with it, I feel that these stories sort of missed that. I was kind of hoping for stories that were a bit more along the likes of The Rocketeer than A Farewell to Arms.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t read more dieselpunk if I could find something, it just means that perhaps that book wasn’t the best introduction to the genre, at least for me. So if you like dieselpunk, this would probably be worth the read. There’s a bunch of stories in there. If not, give it a miss. There are other anthologies out there. If anyone has a suggestion for a dieselpunk book to read, I’m all eyes.

Rating: C+. Being a historian, there were a couple of stories where I was heartily impressed by the author’s attention to detail, such as the one with the Japanese internment camps from WWII America. Other than that, I might just donate this book to the local library.

Dangerous Women

Courtesy of Goodreads.comSo I just picked up volume 3 of the George R.R. Martin edited Dangerous Women anthology. You can pick this up as a single volume on Amazon for Kindle but it’s kinda expensive for an anthology (probably Martin’s name being tagged to it) and I really only wanted this for one story, which I got in volume 3 (paperback). As its title indicates, these stories feature kick ass women. There is at least one sci-fi story in the whole series, which I found in book 3 here, but its mostly fantasy.

I like anthologies because I can be introduced to new authors and sometimes new series. I started reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews because of an anthology and I love that series. Kate Daniels is another kick ass lead woman. The story I most wanted to read was Bombshellsby one of my all time favorite authors, Jim Butcher. I’ve gotten to meet him and he is just as awesome and geeky as you’d think. 🙂

To give you a taste of what this anthology is like, here’s the drill down of Bombshells:

This story is set in the Dresden verse, between Ghost Story and Cold Days. It features Harry’s apprentise, Molly Carpenter, eldest child of Michael and Charity Carpenter. At this point, Molly is in bad shape mentally. She feels guilty for Harry’s apparent death (SPOILERS, he’s not dead) and has taken it upon herself to fight the Fomor and keep Chicago safe. This most definitely includes Harry’s brother Thomas Raith, a member of the White Court of vampires.

When Thomas’s girlfriend Justine comes to Molly for help when Thomas goes missing, Molly agrees although a little reluctantly. She doesn’t trust many people these days and Justine isn’t really on that list. But Harry would have done anything for Thomas, so Molly takes the case. She tracks him down easily enough but is stymied by her adoptive Aunt, the Leanansidhe. Lea has taken Molly under her training wing. Naturally, this isn’t an altruistic thing for Lea to do. Lea had promised Harry’s mother that she would watch out for Harry. Since Harry promised to care for and train Molly, Lea has taken his duties over until he’s able to return. That’s just how things work for faeries.

Lea points out that Thomas is being held by svartalves. If you know anything of Norse mythology, you’ll know svartavles are the magical blacksmiths. They are the ones who created shackles strong enough to hold Fenrir when all other attempts had failed. They’re incredibly powerful and extremely high on honor. Molly can’t just bust the door down. Lea couldn’t bust the door down and live and the Leanansidhe is second in power only to Mab in the Seelie Court.

So, an undercover mission it is. The svartalves are holding a party that night to celebrate the signing of a treaty with the treacherous Fomor. Thankfully Molly, Justine and werewolf Andi just happen to be three drop dead gorgeous gals. Thanks to Justine’s White Court credit card, they get kitted out in identical little black dresses and shoes. Butters (one of my favorite characters in the Dresden Files and Andi’s boyfriend. Go Butters), is playing Bosley to their Angels by providing intel via the paranet though a communication crystal provided by Molly.

The three girls successfully gate crash and not only manage to find Thomas (not that hard when he’s doing his incubus thang), but to totally submarine the non-agression treaty between the Fomor and the svartavles. They do it in an honorable way that gets Molly a favor. Favors are huge in the supernatural Dresden verse, especially from powerful folks like the svartalves.

There are some great lines in this short story. I enjoyed the hell out of it and it is was definitely worth picking up this book. The other stories are pretty good too, so if you want something with a little variety, pick this up. Though I do recommend getting down to your local bookstore and looking for the three volume paperback set. Yes, they’re 7.99 a piece but you also don’t have to spend a lot of money for a ton of stories, only some of which might be up your alley. That way, you can peruse all the stories and pick up one or all three volumes. Rating: A

Another Anthology, Paranormal Romance

So I guess I was feeling a bit soppy the last week or so because I decided to buy the Paranormal Romance (1&2 omnibus) anthology. There were too many stories to really get any descriptions going so I’ll just give an overview of the book as a whole.

Paranormal Romance 2A fair amount of the stories seemed to equate romance with sex. Again, I have nothing against sex in books. A little bit every now and then in a book can break up the action quite nicely. But when you have a short story and its entirely about sex, its a little overwhelming and you kinda just want to get to the next story where maybe there will be some plot. Besides which, you can have romance without sex.

Some of the stories were so compelling that I wished they were full length books, even series. Take Gail Carriger’s short in this book. Her story was about a closeted gay alpha werewolf who just wants to keep his head down. He doesn’t want to fight with the other members of his pack because he knows he’ll beat them. And he doesn’t want to break up the family. Enter a gay merman he went to high school with who needs his help with a fishy (but not fish) problem. Shenanigans ensue and Carriger is great at shenanigans. I wish she’d turn that story into a series because it has great potential. I love her steampunk stuff to death but its nice to see that she can turn out urban fantasy as well.

At least one of these stories was all action, action, action and oh yeah, you needed some romance didn’t you? It was an afterthought, which I felt didn’t quite fit into the theme of the anthology. So all in all, there are some gems to be found but its a good thing that this massive omnibus anthology was only about 5 bucks on Kindle. Rating: C.


CarniepunkCarniepunk is an anthology of short stories by current and upcoming urban fantasy writers. I like reading anthologies every so often to fish for new writers/series to read. Each anthology has a basic premise to work with. From the title, I’m sure you got that all these stories are based around carnivals.

I, personally, have never been to a one of these types of carnivals. These are the road-side, traveling carnivals with the rattling rides and fried everything on a stick food. I’ve mainly just been to big name amusement parks, with the occasional county/state fair (not traveling, permanently in place rides and such).

Some of my favorite writers (Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire) contributed to this book and for the most part, its pretty good. Some of the stories just hit me the wrong way and I had to stop reading that story. Not a in a ‘that’s too creepy to read’ way but a ‘please work on your writing style way’. Some of them felt like writers with very little, if any, publications under their belt. And of course, some of them had the gratuitous sex scene. Because that’s required of urban fantasy I guess? Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against a good love scene but if your just throwing it in because you think its expected…please don’t. It should help the flow of the story some how. That’s why I had to stop reading Anita Blake stories. She needs to feed off sex all of a sudden. Really?

Anyway, moving on. The following writers have short stories in this anthology: Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay,  and Seanan McGuire. Rob Thurman I think is easily the most original story of the lot. Some of these are stand alone stories (like Thurman’s) but some of them are short stories in one of the writer’s series (like Estep’s).

Carniepunk is worth a read I think, though I don’t believe carniepunk will ever be a subgenre of urban fantasy. Though if there are any urban fantasy writers out there capable of creating a series about supernatural carnies, please have at it. It would be pretty original to say the least! Rating: C+/B-. I wish that Amazon’s Kindle service would allow you to buy individual short stories, rather than the whole anthology. Anyone know if that’s possible?

Sherlock Holmes

So I’m eagerly awaiting the US release for the second season (or series to you Brits) of BBC’s Sherlock and it got me in the mood to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I have been, since before the Guy Ritchie movies, a big ACD Holmes fan. He’s a Victorian detective House (very simply put) but oh so much better.

Some time ago I bought the Complete Sherlock Holmes for both Kindle and paperback. It contains, so far as I know, all of Doyle’s original Holmes stories, including the novels of A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’m really very hard pressed to choose a favorite story as I find most all of them entertaining on some level. Sherlock is a master detective and a master at the back handed compliment.

So, I won’t try to summarize all the various stories. There are far, far to many to do so in a single post. I will, however, pick a few of my favorites to recommend them to you.

-A Study in Scarlet: This is a full novel of Sherlock Holmes. It introduces him and Dr. John Watson. It gives a bit of back story for Watson and include their first case together. I was a bit confused when I first read it because I thought that it suddenly broke into an entirely different story with entirely different characters. But if you can stick with it, it’s well worth the read.

-A Scandal in Bohemia: This story introduces The Woman, Irene Adler. A bit of a warning for you Ritchie fans, she isn’t quite like the lovely Rachel McAdams portrayed. She certainly outwits Sherlock at every turn but I believe she had only one ‘spoken’ line in the entire story. It is one of the more fun stories in the Holmes verse.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: Sherlock solves a Christmas time mystery involving a felt hat, a dead goose and a blue carbuncle (a garnet related gem). This is another fun one.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band: It’s an engaging story with a woman who is not quite the typical helpless Victorian lady. She’s in some what of an abusive relationship with her step-father but finds the courage to ask help from Holmes and Watson.

The Final Problem: This is the one where Holmes faces down the dastardly (good word that, one hardly ever gets to use it) Professor James Moriarty. I believe I read somewhere (probably on the net so beware the ‘facts’) that Doyle so despised Holmes’ popularity at this point that he had killed off the detective in this story hoping to never return to writing him. Didn’t quite work out as planned.

The Adventure of the Empty House: Holmes makes his triumphant return to London and his old friend Watson. I love this story because Watson has such a visceral reaction to Holmes’ return and yet I’m a little disappointed that Watson didn’t pop him one. I’m hoping that the BBC Watson will do that during the updated version of this story. 🙂

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot: This one features a Holmes’ that is less than the ‘superman’ that he was portrayed as previously. His poor habits during (and between) cases had left him on the verge of a break down and Watson takes him to recover in the country. Of course, life isn’t that simple for the pair and a murder mystery finds them.

The Adventure of the Three Garridebs: Holmes investigates the story of a will with the strange stipulation that the inheritance be split between three adult men with the unusual last name of Garrideb. I like this one because we finally see a glimpse of just how much Watson means to Holmes.

There are many other stories that I enjoyed but these ones stick out most in my mind at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll move on to next but this was a good break from my usual fare of urban fantasy. If you haven’t read Sherlock Holmes before, I highly suggest the stories. A+

Two New Anthologies

Okay, so with Tropical Storm Irene shutting down the T here in the Boston hub area, I don’t have a whole heck of a lot to do today. New post time! I just finished two anthologies: Home Improvement: Undead Edition and Blood Lite II. As I’ve stated, I love these urban fantasy type anthologies because you get introduced to authors you may not have heard of previously.

Home Improvement: Undead Edition focuses on stories of people (mostly but not always supernatural) doing, you guessed it, home improvements that are disrupted because of ghosts. Some of the stories are fun and some of them are a bit more serious. Charlaine Harris contributes a Sookie Stackhouse short and Simon R Green gives an original short.

Blood Lite II is mostly supernatural creatures getting their feed on. This one was a bit funnier than Home Improvement. In one memorable moment, one author used the angry ghosts of primates doing what primates at zoos tend to do and coined the phrase polter-schiests. I LOST IT. I was on the train home and giggling for about ten minutes.

So I thought they were both pretty solid B books. As always with anthologies there are some hits and some misses but over all they were pretty good. And with Borders going out of business, you can get some pretty sweet deals, so no excuses!