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51. Transtories edited by Colin Harvey

I picked up this collection at a previous Bristol Con and have just got round to reading it in time for this year's. The late Colin Harvey was involved with the Bristol SFF scene but I never met him; the only person I know who has a story in here is Joanne Hall.

This is a collection of stories linked only by each being based (loosely) around a word beginning with "trans". It's an ecclectic and uneven collection (at least for me).

It stars out well with a story by Aliette de Bodard, The Axle of Heaven. I'd heard good things about her and off the back of this I bought one of her books in the recent big Hodder ebook sale.

Transference by Jay Carlsberg was interesting and thought-provoking, as was Transthermal by John Kenny. Jo's offering, The Snake on His Shoulder, was good fun (locking the devil in the bell tower is always fun right?). I also enjoyed Shopping for Children by Susanne Martin, set in a future where having children the natural way is no longer possible. Silver by Rob Rowntree was an interesting concept but had more domestic violence than I really want in a steampunk adventure. Rainbows & Unicorns by Cody L Stanford is brutal and heartbreaking but really, really good. Oh, for the Touch Tentacular by Jonathan Shipley, about a student trying to earn a living on an alien world where the sapient life forms are sauropod and concepts don't translate particularly well, was funny.

The rest didn't do much for me. I've discovered this month that stories set in post-human universes tend to make me bounce right off (the Stross book excepted), and two of the stories are that exact kind of thing.

In other words, it's like many collections - the good stuff is good indeed, but a lot is pretty disposable. Can't fault it for the variety of the stories - at no point did it all start to get same-y.
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42. North by Southwest edited by Joanne Hall

Disclaimer: This is another one where I know almost everybody involved. My name's in the acknowledgements because I contributed to the Fundsurfer.

This is a collection of short stories by the North Bristol Writers' Group. While it's not explicitly SF/F like the BristolCon publications, there's a critical mass of overlap so it leans in that direction. Throw in a murder mystery so it ticks that genre box as well.

The quality of the stories is very good overall. As has been mentioned in other reviews, the most fun story is J H-R's Miss Butler number, but there's a lot of good stuff. As always with short story collections, the very short ones do very little for me, but they were all technically good. I enjoyed the murder mystery, Pete Sutton's Latitude was nicely disturbing, and I especially liked Ian Milstead's House Blood. He's not the first person to link slavery and vampirism, but it works well nonetheless. Recommended.
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17. Night Music: Nocturnes 2 by John Connolly

My favourite John Connolly book is Nocturnes, his first volume of short stories. It's the first book of his I ever read and I was impressed not only by the individual stories in it, but the variety of voice that he employs.

So I was pretty excited when he put out another volume. I started reading the first one right away, but then it sat on my shelf for a while. The first story, "The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository" is indeed good, but it is about fictional characters coming to life & the social mechanisms for looking after them. Unfortunately I'd just read Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, which is based on much the same idea, and is done better (and while Fforde got there first, it's not like it's a completely original idea to either).

There follow a few really short numbers that failed to excite me.

Then comes "The Fractured Atlas: Five Fragments", which just blew me away. Creepy, interesting, it's got the lot. And all the stories that follow are just superb.

So my faith in one of my favourite writers was restored, just in time for his new Charlie Parker novel to come out (which I am reading now and I love it).
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11. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Neil's latest collection of short stories. I found they varied wildly in quality - some were wonderful, straight through to what-the-hell-is-this? My favourite was definitely the Shadow story (as in Shadow from American Gods), but I also really enjoyed the variation on Sleeping Beauty.
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2. Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion edited by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall

Disclaimer: I know the editors and practically all the contributors.

Like the previous anthologies put out by the lovely folks from BristolCon, this punches well above its weight for your local sci-fi group's collection. (In fact, I gave my spare copy to my brother[1] and he didn't entirely believe that it was a load of stories written by people I go to the pub with regularly).

The theme for this one is steampunk tales set in Bristol. But they went for stories with a point and social commentary rather than a bunch of posh blokes crashing around the empire in airships. Because thankfully the editors have as little tolerance for that sort of thing as I do.

Like all short story collections, I liked some more than the others, and not surprisingly to anyone who's ever met me my favourite was the Lovecraftian one.

I enjoyed the three at the end less but can't swear to whether that's because they were less good, or because I read the whole thing at once (we're doing it in book club tomorrow) rather than over time and may have been cogged-out towards the end.

Recommended, and I'm not just saying that because they're my mates. I am privileged to know such talented people and humbled that they put up with me.

[1] Two launch events, they didn't have the hardcover from the press yet at the first...
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75. New Cthulu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran

A collection of short stories all based somehow in HP Lovecraft's universe that have been published since 2000. Amazingly, even though it contains stories by a lot of authors I read, the only one I'd read before was the Neil Gaiman one (A Study in Emerald).

This book is absolutely enormous. I can't believe how long it took me to read - I read it in the airport and on the plane to Iceland and again on the train to and from Leeds, and I still had 100 pages left!

Overall the quality of stories is really good here, and they represent the full range of different "types" of Lovecraft stories, and a stunning variety of takes on the mythos.

Like any collection of this type, some are better than others, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the ones I failed to engage came when I'd had just about enough but was stuck without anything else to do.

One near the end blew my socks off though - Mongoose by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette - set on a space station that looked in my mind like a slightly gloomier Babylon 5.

Well worth it if Lovecraftian mythos is your thing, but it'll take some time!
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2. Gothic! Ten original dark tales, edited by Deborah Noyes

I didn't realise until I read the intro that this is supposed to be a Young Adult collection.

This is a really good collection. A few of the stories were really enjoyable but with disappointing endings, but others (notably "Prank" and "The Writing on the Wall") are just wonderful. This collection also contains one of my favourite Neil Gaiman short stories, "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire", which is just hilarious.


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