Old Venus | by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
Summary: This collection of short stories visits Venus when we thought it was swampy and jungle-thick with exotic life. Never mind that our scientific observations have eliminated this possibility – the various writers ignore the real acidic atmosphere and create a world both foreign and familiar. Fans of science fiction may feel a pull toward the red planet next, another common destination for exploration and fantasy from classic times. If you listen to the audiobook, more than one narrator might be recognizable.
Recommendation: I found this item when searching for a particular narrator in audiobooks. Not only was I satisfied in my search by finding this title; I was delighted to have several actor/readers entertain me with baritone and pleasing voices. The action of the stories tends toward noir or pulp dime novel aesthetics. A little bit of campy goes a long way. It’s a sensory vacation to someplace ancient.
Rogues | by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
Summary: This collection is all about the characters. Most we meet are cads, scalawags, con men, thieves, and/or scoundrels – always fun to watch in action. Learn how to deceive while telling the truth. Listen to the ingratiating charm and the absurd insults of both noble and street urchin alike. Be flummoxed by the fast-handed filching of a great pickpocket. Somehow, it always sounds like a lark, being a kinda-bad, not-so-honest guy.
Recommendation: My absolute favorite work in this grouping is “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch. Not only does narrator Gwendoline Christie superbly represent each character differently and well, she’s a hoot! This story made me laugh and want more. It is EXACTLY the reason I go hunting through anthologies in the first place – to find that rare pearl.
Dangerous Women | by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
Summary: This collection is a cross-genre exploration of styles. We find fantasy, noir, science fiction, western, and historical delving into the lives of women as the main characters or as the impetus to strife, battle, or war (think Helen of Troy). Of this series of anthologies, I’m going to call it ‘average overall’, but there are some exemplary works to appreciate. Remember (kindly) that this publication is older (2013) than the previous titles I’ve compared and you might agree that the improvements along the way (in writing or in selecting the works for inclusion) were very much worth the journey.
Recommendation: “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland, “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn, and “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm were my favorites (and completely brilliant) short stories from this anthology. Each is immersive and surrounds the reader in the flavor of the setting. Each portrays the women/girls as stubborn or obsessive or flawed in very believable ways. No Mary Sues to be found here – they were inspired from real life, real adventures and history.