Thursday, 9 October 2014

Review: Stupefying Stories November 2012...

Stupefying Stories November 2012...
Stupefying Stories November 2012... by Samuel M. Johnston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because the editor is now the editor of Straeon, and recommends reading it if you want to know what he likes. Initially, I sampled it on my Kindle, but I was enjoying the stories enough that I bought it.

Not every story worked for me, but that's usual with any collection, and most of them I enjoyed. If they have a common weakness, it's that the endings are often "soft" rather than decisive.

Overall, they reminded me of the classic mid-century writers Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley and, occasionally, R.A. Lafferty, suitably updated. That's a good thing, in my book. The premises are often absurd; in a few, that tips over the line into too much absurdity for me, particularly when the absurdities are apparently meant seriously.

"Queen of Sheba" I found well written and well observed.

"Wednesday's Child" was moving and beautiful.

"Snatching Baby Delilah" is one of those stories where you're not completely sure of the narrator's reliability (or sanity) by the end of the story. The Kindle sample finished during this story, and I wanted to know how it ended, so I bought the magazine.

"Nonsense 101" was, indeed, nonsense, but enjoyable. It was the most R.A. Lafferty-like of the stories.

"Lucky" is a real Fredric Brown-style story in its dilemma, and more of a Sheckley in its resolution.

"The Ants Go Marching", though weighted down a bit with excessive detail, especially at the beginning, ends up as a decent parable of colonialism and resistance.

"Lover's Knot" is fantastical and has a wonderful allegorical, dreamlike quality.

"Girl Without a Name" is marred by distracting errors, like the main character's hair being "plated" instead of "plaited". It's post-apocalyptic, something I especially dislike, and overall didn't work well for me as a story.

"Toilet Gnomes at War" is very Fredric Brown, light despite the desperate straits of the protagonist.

"Moondust" is built on two absurdities taken seriously: moondust is a drug, and pilots take it to enable them to make it through long space trips. Didn't work for me. (You definitely do not want a stoned person piloting anything.)

"Citizen Astronauts" is built on multiple absurdities taken seriously. In particular, valuing a business, booking a surgery or anything involving any large project or any branch of government is not going to happen by tomorrow, and, again, you don't just shove an average person into space exploration with no training. I didn't find the ending either convincing or emotionally satisfying either.

"Heartbreath" starts with some confusing language, which at first obscures the fact that it's rather an old trope. It doesn't help that the author manages to misspell the name of one of the characters twice.

"Revolver" is a bit of a mess, several stories crushed into one through a device of reincarnation; part mysticism, part pulp action, and the parts don't fit together well, or work for me individually.

"Office Demons" is a nice parable about something that is obvious very quickly (to the reader much earlier than to the protagonist), but still well told.

"Number Station" is another Brownish story, perhaps too short and with too much "tell".

Do I think I can write a story for Straeon? Yes. Yes, I do, and will enjoy it, too.

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