on December 3, 2013
I was really excited about this anthology! I love anthologies, I love kickass women, and the Martin-Dozois anthologies attract the best fantasy writers. I've read and liked one of their anthologies (Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love) before, but this one blew it out of the park!
Dangerous Women doesn't just feature sci-fi/fantasy stories; there are a variety of genres represented. This makes the collection have an incredibly broad range. The eponymous dangerous women are all pretty different too - physically or magically powerful women, women who flourish despite their circumstances, femme fatales, vengeful ghosts, and more. Sometimes they drive the plot, sometimes they're the protagonist, and sometimes they're both.
I enjoyed some stories more than others, but unusually, I didn't think any fell flat. Some were disturbing or implausible, but I think they still made good additions to the anthology. I'm not going to review every story, but I'll talk a bit about some standouts.
THE HANDS THAT ARE NOT THERE by Melinda Snodgrass
This story takes place in the same universe as one of my favourites from Songs of Love and Death, and I was immediately pulled into this universe again. Unfortunately there aren't any full-length books in this universe, but I'm hoping there will be soon! It involves an extraordinary story told in a bar, which if were true, would have incredible repercussions.
SHADOWS FOR SILENCE IN THE FORESTS OF HELL by Brandon Sanderson
I don't really like the title of the story, but the story itself was fantastic. It's set in Sanderson's Cosmere (although I don't know what planet) and features a terrifying world and a resourceful woman who makes it a little safer. I'm probably biased by my indefatigable love for Sanderson, but I loved this story.
BOMBSHELLS by Jim Butcher
I've only read the first book of the Dresden Files, but this story made me really want to catch up with it (it also contains major spoilers for the direction of the series, but I didn't mind that). It features Molly, Harry Dresden's apprentice and some other Dresdenverse women on a mission. Molly gets some great character development, and there's a lot of gratuitous ass-kicking. Some of it was a little cliched, but it was so much fun that I didn't mind.
A QUEEN IN EXILE by Sharon Kay Penman and NORA'S SONG by Cecelia Holland
Both of these stories were historical fiction and featured women figuring out how to become dangerous in a male-dominated world. Other than that, they were fairly different - in the former, Constance, future Queen of Sicily, takes charge of her unhappy life and in the latter, a young Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile learns how to get her way. I found both fascinating, and I really need to read more historical fiction.
MY HEART IS EITHER BROKEN by Megan Abbott
I don't want to say very much about this heartbreaking story, but it examines the emotional consequences of knowing a truly dangerous woman. Or thinking you do.
LIES MY MOTHER TOLD ME by Caroline Spector
This story is set in the shared Wild Cards universe, and involves a superhero that goes from having dangerous powers to being truly dangerous even without her powers. I found it very poignant.
I could keep going, but I'll just say that I also loved SOME DESPERADO by Joe Abercrombie (I can't wait to see more of Shy in his latest book, Red Country), THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Lev Grossman, NAME THE BEAST by Sam Sykes, and RAISA STEPANOVA by Carrie Vaughn (I haven't read anything by Vaughn that I haven't loved). THE PRINCESS AND THE QUEEN by George R.R. Martin read like the dry medieval telling that it was meant to be, but was strangely fascinating.
The stories I wasn't as thrilled about:
I KNOW HOW TO PICK 'EM by Lawrence Block
This is an extremely well-written story, but it left me feeling unclean just having read it (which seems intentional). It definitely adds to the diversity of the anthology, but I wish I hadn't read it. It probably didn't help that I was envisioning Tricia Helfer as the "dangerous woman" in the story.
SECOND ARABESQUE, VERY SLOWLY by Nancy Krees
The idea behind this story was fascinating (discovering beauty in an ugly world), and I was somewhat touched by the ending, but I was distracted by finding the worldbuilding implausible - 99% of women are sterile, and civilisation totally breaks down. I can see how women's place in society would change significantly, but I don't think cities and technology would be completely destroyed. I didn't even mind the world, but the cause of it seemed forced.
PRONOUNCING DOOM by S.M. Stirling
I got the gist of this story, but was thoroughly confused by the world. American society is now heavily influenced by ancient Scottish/Irish tradition, and this all happens within a few years? I found out that this is set in the "Emberverse", but I don't think there's enough of an introduction to this universe for people not already familiar with it.
That ended up being much longer than I anticipated. Summary: this is one of the best anthologies I've ever read. Buy it!
‘Dangerous Women’ is a story anthology that consists of 21 stories from which fans will probably be the most interested for one written by George R.R. Martin set in the Westeros world, around the two hundred years before the events described in ‘A Game of Thrones’ describing the Dance of the Dragons, the fierce war between two Targaryens over the Iron Throne.
And while the title of the collection suggests that the theme of included stories are women that make problems, threaten or destroy this is actually not entirely true.
Although reader on the anthology pages is going to meet all kinds of female protagonists that are far from being symbols of perfection or virtuous, most of them are characters that didn't want to leave their fate and lives to others...
What is characteristic of many anthologies especially in situations when they're of different genres - the unevenness of quality- happened in this case as well, resulting with a situation that some of the included stories are of exceptional quality, while there are some others that certainly are not of level that would be expected in such edition.
Also, the short stories as format are not popular with all the readers because they most of the times don't allow the full development of the characters and the reader often wonders why the author didn't made the effort to develop it into a book of novel length.
Personally I like to read short stories and I think that only the skillful writers succeed in this shorter form giving more than the others would manage to deliver on 200 or more pages.
It doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to read continuation or extended version of ‘Raisa Stepanova’ from Carrie Vaughn or Joe Abercrombie's ‘Some Desperado’ that among some others are the best stories in this collection.
Of course, understandable is publisher's decision to try selling few copies more by putting the world-famous name of George R.R. Martin, whose name is highlighted on the cover although besides editing, he wrote only one of its 21 stories.
But don't be afraid, this collection is not only about Martin's story, indeed even though I'm big fan of his works, in my opinion his story is the fourth or fifth ranked by quality, that means that this anthology is well-worth of reading.
on December 3, 2013
I don't like reading short stories. I feel like they don't have enough time for proper character development and, more often than not, they feel awkwardly truncated. Short story collections are difficult for me to sit down and read for a long time because my brain keeps being confused when I move on to the next story. But that's the reality of short story collections, huh?
Anyway, this collection is better than those I have read before. I sincerely enjoyed each and every story in the book, though of course I liked some more than others. There were several that I wished were full-length novels (Carrie Vaughn's "Raisa Stepanova," for example). I had a few friends who were misled by the title, thinking it referred solely to women that are out to wreak havoc and destroy lives. That is certainly not what this collection is about. While some of the female protagonists may not be shining stars of virtue, for the most part they all represent strong woman who take control of their destinies. It is, truthfully, a book of feminist dreams (and I mean that in the best way possible).
A friend did express concern that the book would use George R.R. Martin's name as a way to sell a collection of mediocre stories. However, I found that is not the case. I came to the collection without bias, as I have not read anything by any of the authors (no, I do not read the Song of Ice and Fire series), yet I found each story to be well-written and original. I just hope that not too many people flip to the end of the book to read Martin's story and then decide not to read the others. It would be a damn shame, since I was not impressed with his work.
Is the book worth $32.50? Personally, I would not think of paying full price for it. However, as stated before, I am not typically a fan of short stories. I think it is a worthy addition to the book collections of those who do enjoy short stories, or for those who are fans of one or more of the contributing authors.
More reviews at mybooklust.wordpress.com
on December 28, 2013
Very uneven collection. Although there were a few excellent tales (e.g., those from Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie, Raisa Stepanova, and others), there were too many in which women were little more than backdrops and the tales were really all about men. A collection entitled "Dangerous Women" should have had women as the main characters. I love works by George R.R. Martin and expected more from him in picking the stories for this collection.
on December 29, 2013
I picked this up with a gift card for my Kindle. I enjoyed most of the stories, while not all of them are particularly comfortable, but while the timbre of most of the stories was of women who took charge of their own destiny, one in the middle -- "I Sure Know How To Pick 'Em" -- read like an misogynistic masturbatory fantasy, and did not, at all, belong in the book. Neither one of the female characters posed any kind of danger to the male protagonist through whose eyes the story is told, so I'm not sure why this was included. It wasn't well-written and didn't fit in the anthology at all.
The rest of the stories were deliciously bite-sized & challenging. Many of the authors painted vivid world in a minimum of words. It's just an absolute shame that chunk of drek was dropped in the middle of an otherwise good anthology.
on December 12, 2013
I bought this book for Diana Gabaldon's story "Virgins" as I am a huge fan of the Outlander book series. However, because I am such a huge fan, I didn't want to read the story first because then it would over too soon and I'd have no new Outlander stories to read until book #8 comes out in June. As a result, I started at page 1 of this anthology and have been making my way through the stories in order. I really love this book! I would even love it if Diana Gabaldon didn't have a story in it. Each story is interesting in its own way and each story is very different from the others. Not only has it been fun to jump into various different worlds and meet new characters, but I have now been exposed to many authors I wasn't previously aware of so that going forward when I'm searching for something to read I can refer back to this book and check out their other work. I'm only about halfway through the book at this point and can't wait until I reach Diana's story, but I have every expectation that the rest of the stories will continue to be just as enjoyable.
on October 17, 2014
It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on the individual stories:
<b>Introduction by Gardner Dozois</b>
Pretty good. I really liked the mentions of women serving unacknowledged in combat.
<b>“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country story</b>
This story had a really nice atmosphere conveyed through the strategic use of sound. It’s gleefully violent, and not altogether serious. I loved the Western setting, and the narrator had a really good voice and speaking manner.
<b>“My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott</b>
I quickly passed on this story. The male narrator had very little tonal variation and sounded bored. Pass.
<b>“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland</b>
This story had an overabundance of characters and plot. It was hard to keep everything and everyone straight. Both the horse dream standing in for masturbation and the king’s percy behavior skeeved me out, but overall I was just bored. The narrator was nicely expressive at first, but then it seemed she got bored as well when her voice started droning on.
<b>“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass</b>
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I'm missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn't seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that's not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. "Sassy little buttocks"? I giggled when he shouted "blackout'. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?
Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.
<b>“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden story</b>
I've never read any of the Dresden books, although I'm vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase 'soul gaze' spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.
<b>“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn</b>
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!
The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.
Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.
<b>“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale</b>
OK, the first few lines made me smile. Excellent description. But...where's the woman? Okaaay...so there's one in the old dude's story. Oh, and the kid's mom, who's defined by her job and her boyfriend. Not a very sympathetic character. So, good story, but not really about a dangerous woman. It's really about the relationship between the kid and the old dude. The 'dangerous woman' who shows up at the end has no agency. She simply goes with whoever wins the match. She never even spoke.
<b>“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm aka Robin Hobb</b>
This great story featured older women. Sarah has problems with her brother and pressure from her son, but then some otherworldly, creepy hooligans intrude into her life. A simply adorable story.
Narrator has wonderful different voices for each character.
<b>“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block</b>
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man's man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.
Narrator has great, gritty voice.
<b>“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson</b>
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.
Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.
<b>“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman</b>
Fantastic narrator, but why should I care about the main character, Constance? The author never gives us a reason to care, but maybe historical stories aren’t my thing. Oh look, she's convinced 'God would bless her with a boy'. Sigh. Just ok, despite being about a real life powerful ruler.
<b>“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman - A Magicians story</b>
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.
As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.
<b>“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress</b>
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl's 'budding' ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.
The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.
<b>“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland</b>
Booooring right off the bat. Male narrator. Pass.
<b>“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon - An Outlander story</b>
I only listened to part of this before passing. It seemed to be a bunch of men in kilts discussing women and their dicks, with nary a women in sight. Just a lot of talk about them.
However the narrator had a Scottish accent, so I may have to go back sometime and give this another try.
<b>“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon</b>
Titled with a cliche and overbearing verse about how there’s no such thing as a “true legend”, all narrated with a drawl?
No thanks. Next.
<b>“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling - An Emberverse story</b>
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.
At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.
However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.
The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.
<b>“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes</b>
This story had an odd setup where a mother takes her daughter on a hunting initiation. They’re both very tense, but the mother’s bile towards the father seemed really hostile. I felt for the girl, as both her parents seemed pretty awful. However, it did turn a bit sweeter towards the end, and I’d look up more of this author’s books.
The choice of an older female narrator was particularly nice in this context, and she did a fantastic job.
<b>“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan</b>
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.
Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.
<b>“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector - A Wild Cards story</b>
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!
<b>“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire story</b>
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.
Sooooo - everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.
Good narrator, though.
There is also music between each story and a really terrible narrator for each author's bio.
on January 29, 2015
I'm not a big fan of multi-author, multi-genre anthologies because it often comes out as uneven and a bit helter-skelter for me. In this collection, I only knew three authors-- Diana Gabaldon, Sharon Kay Penman and George R.R. Martin, so I read them first, then I read a few more-- some were better than others. I didn't read all of the stories but 60% sounds like a good enough statistic. Also, to expect all the stories to be about dangerous women seemed too tall an order. Just enjoy each story for what they're worth.
Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie--<i>An outlaw figures her way out of a fix. Western.</i> Don't really like Westerns so this was just okay. I did wonder how the protagonist was going to extend the story for 20 pages without getting killed. Meh. 2*
My Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott-- <i>About a couple's changing relationship after their child goes missing.</i> This held a lot of promise for me and I was intrigued at how it would turn out. The narration held an "Investigation Discovery" vibe but then, just like the title, you are left hanging. What happens now? 3*
The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass--<i>A guy recounts a love affair gone wrong... set in a dystopian world.</i> There's the first part of the story that sets up the meeting with the guy with the actual tale worthy of mention in the summary. What was the need for that first exposition then? Don't know. The actual alien love affair was intriguing enough. 2.5*
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn-- <i>About a woman figher pilot, set in WW2 Russia...</i> Had big expectations because of some reviews and a promising beginning but was ultimately letdown. Predictable ending. 2.5*
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale--<i> An old former wrestler has to win a recurrent match with his old nemesis to gain the favor of a woman.</i> Enjoyable and entertaining! This is how I like my short stories-- short, succinct but still able to convey characterization and plot and hurl it to a satisfying ending. 4*
Neighbors-- <i>An old lady is losing her mind.</i> She lost it. 3*
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson-- <i>A woman and her daughter struggles for survival in a dark, dangerous post-apocalyptic world.</i> Very enjoyable! This story is fast-paced and seething with danger, I was relieved to find it finished. On the flipside, I was also disappointed to find that this was a standalone tale, and not part of a bigger fantasy series by the author. Good to know you, Mr. Sanderson. 4.5*
A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman--<i>Queen Constance goes back to Sicily with her unpopular husband. Danger and drama ensues.</i> I really enjoy Sharon Kay Penman's style of historical fiction writing-- she seems to write with command that you're compelled to think she was a personal witness to these accounts. Alas, there was too much exposition in this story to be truly entertaining. It would've been better served as a longer novella, where the characters are given time to be fleshed out, and some more dialogue wouldn't have come amiss. 3*
The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman-- Why was this in this collection? How old are these protagonists? This read as too juvenile for me, and even though I like reading YA, this story seemed younger than YA-- like middle school. The catapult in the story is the guy shortchanging everyone's wine, then the girls retaliate by taking his pencils. Yup. They're in a magic school. 1*
Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress-- This title was weird for me and for that, I hadn't wanted to read it. But I ended up liking some parts of the story. It's like The Handmaiden's Tale, where sterile females are something of a novelty. I liked the pace and the mystery and the sense of imminent danger, contrasted with discovering a dance called, "Ballet." And what in the world are those characters going to do with this knowledge? In a world where survival takes first priority, these characters decide to dance. That sentence sounds deep philosophically but in this short story, it seemed silly. 3* for the writing.
Virgins by Diana Gabaldon--<i>A prequel to the Outlander series, we meet Jamie Fraser after the events at Wentworth, joining his best friend Ian Murray as a mercenary in France.</i> As a Jamie Fraser novella, I like it because it adds to the canon that is the Outlander series. I like knowing about Ian's point of view as well, him being another beloved character from Outlander. However, if you're not already invested in Outlander, this may not be the best introduction to that world and Diana Gabaldon. Also, I don't think this particular novella should be in this collection, because it's really about Jamie Fraser and not the female character, Rebekah. I wish Diana Gabaldon wrote about Geillis Duncan; there's a wicked female character she could've expounded on. 3.5* for Jamie alone.
Name the Beast by Sam Sykes-- I must've been dense the morning I read this because I was left confused, after reading it. I thought I'd read it again, just to make sure I understood it but I don't really want to. I think there were two different families involved, one the <i>schict </i> family and the other, the "Beast" or human family... but I didn't know that until a couple of pages before the ending. The narration was that ambiguous. I think it could've been good. If I understood what it meant. 1.5*
The Princess and the Queen by George R R Martin--I was excited about the George R.R. Martin entry, never having read any of his books. I thought, since this was a prequel, this may be a good way to ease into his fantasy world. Alas, if people are calling Martin the American Tolkien, then this story had the vibe of "Unfinished Tales" which I didn't like. It's written as a historical text, and there are too many characters to keep track of and too many unknowns for the uninitiated. Best suited for the Game Of Thrones crowd.
on December 7, 2013
Ever since I first read "The Hobbit" when I was 12, I loved dragons but was always disappointed at varying degrees by the authors that featured them in their stories. Fantasy's greatest series "A Song of Ice and Fire", (known to most as "Game of Thrones" has by far the best dragon mythology, but even Daenerys's three young dragons and the brief mentions of dragons in Westoros history left me wanting more.
Finally, George RR Martin has released "The Princess and the Queen", an 82-page novella featured in the hardcover anthology "Dangerous Women". Set a couple of centuries before the events of "A Game of Thrones", this story is simply the history of a civil war within the Targaryen family, and it tells what happened to all the dragons. It also tells you all about them and how beautiful, terrifying, dangerous, and destructive they could be. If you like non-stop medieval carnage, you love this!
on December 31, 2013
I've never really been one for anthologies. My taste has generally been inclined toward big thick books with piles of detail. That's why I love Harry Potter, the Song Of Ice And Fire series, Deborah Harkness' two novels. I only got this anthology because of Martin, I'll admit that right up front.
I'll also admit that I can't pay the full asking price of a book and just read a novella, so there was no way I was going to not read the other tales as well. I have to say now that I'm glad I have. Unlike many of the anthologies I've been asked to review over time, this is a collection of top-shelf authors very skilled in their craft. Too many editors compile anthos as a way to get experience for beginning writers. I suppose that's a fine thing, but it's not something I generally enjoy reading. In this case you've got little noshes from lots of grand chefs at the top of their game and it's nothing short of a feast.
Probably the masterstroke of editing genius from Dozois was to make the collection a cross-genre experience. It's nice to go from sci-fi to noir to high fantasy to urban fantasy. The difference in genres makes each story a palette cleanser and a unique and filling experience on its own.
I'd recommend this to fans of great reading, even those who don't generally go for the short-story format. I'd say some of the stories are 5-star, most are 4-star and a few slip under the wire slightly, coming in at 3-star. Even those, however, are good reads. Special mention for the story within a story about the star-crossed lovers--I want a followup to that one, and I want it badly. (I don't have the book in front of me, pardon my lack of a title.)