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After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2011
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Joshua Palmatier was born in PA, but now resides in NY. Palmatier started writing SF and Fantasy novels and short stories in eighth grade, and hasn't stopped writing since, mainly focusing on novels. He can be found at sff.net/people/jpalmatier/.
Paricia Bray inherited her love of books from her parents, both of whom were fine storytellers in the Irish tradition. She has always enjoyed spinning tales, and turned to writing as a chance to share her stories with a wider audience. Patricia holds a master's degree in Information Technology, and combines her writing with a full-time career as an I/T Project Manager.
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The most interesting twist to the bar-conceit is that Gilgamesh has one magic drink on offer that has just enough kick to let them decide their futures clearly. In some stories, that drink does nothing more than make sure the person stays on the same path he started. In others, such as "Steady Hands and a Heart of Oak," it pushes a character through the decision tree of the future over and over again until the one possibly positive decision comes clear.
Like most short story collections, there were some that were better than others. Some were funny, some were thoughtful, and two were really on my wavelength. They were arranged in roughly historical order, running from prehistory and Vikings ("Why the Vikings Had No Bars") through the World Wars, up through to post-history time travel ("Forbidden") and zombies. While I purchased the book because it had a Seanan McGuire story in it ("The Alchemy of Alcohol"), I enjoyed many of other authors just as much if not more than McGuire. Dunne's "The Emperor's New God" tickled my history bone, as did Jackson's "The Tavern Fire." The end story, "Izdu Bar" was, of course, one with a twist. I didn't resent it, though I didn't like it all that much. Still, I recommend the book as a great sampler for many solid writers who all took a concept and really *ran* with it.
One of the warnings I've been given as a fantasy writer is to avoid cliché tavern scenes. Enter AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, an anthology about a time-traveling tavern that carefully breaks this rule and others.
Disclaimer: Since I know the editors and some of the authors of this book, I have tried exceptionally hard to be objective in reviewing. That said, I think the concept is cool. Check it out:[...]
After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar
The first bar, created by the Sumerians after they were given the gift of beer by the gods, was known as the Ur-Bar. Although it has since been destroyed, its spirit lives on--in each age there is one bar that captures the essence of the original Ur-Bar, where drinks are mixed with magic and served with a side of destiny and intrigue.
And now for the individual story reviews with mild ((SPOILERS)). Favorites in bold:
"An Alewife In Kish" by Benjamin Tate - Who doesn't like origin stories? Here we learn how Gilgamesh becomes the bartender of the Ur-Bar, bonus points for using a historical figure as a main character. The advice to avoid extended flashbacks in short stories was expertly broken here, as Gilgamesh's tale within the tale provides the basis for his downfall.
"Why the Vikings Had No Bars" by S.C. Butler - It is easy to like a story with a cameo by a one-eyed Norse god and his ravens. A double rule-breaker, this tale not only occurs exclusively within a tavern, but also includes a tavern brawl. S.C. Butler makes this work in a light-hearted way with a running joke between Gilgamesh and the god.
"The Emperor's New God" by Jennifer Dunne - Another mix of mythology and history as Otto the Great makes a deal with the god, Mars. The Ur-bar doesn't play as big a role in this story, which focuses more on the characters and their flaws. That said, it was still an enjoyable read.
"The Tale That Wagged the Dog" by Barbara Ashford - A priest, a Selkie, and a talking dog walk into the Ur-Bar. No Joke. There are so many great things in this story that made me smile: William Wallace, a line from Billy Joel's Piano Man, and a reference to humping a Selkie's leg. Gil's magic brew features prominently in this story.
"Sake and Other Spirits" by Maria V. Snyder - Set in Japan, featuring Samarai's and a water-vampire. This is a great story about being true to yourself and respecting your foe. Gilga-san's information is crucial to the MCs development. Favorite setting.
"The Fortune-Teller Makes Her Will" by Kari Sperring - A tale of a poor young girl who the angels speak through, and another serving an important madam. The settings are rendered so beautifully I felt like I could feel the curtains. In the end, heroic sacrifice takes on a whole new light.
"The Tavern Fire" by D.B. Jackson. Is the mystery behind the Second Great Fire of Boston finally revealed? Perhaps. Or maybe D.B. Jackson has just found a way to weave a fantasy tale from the uncertainties of New England history. Nice to see a non-traditional MC in this one, and well-portrayed at that. To know what I'm talking about, you'll have to read this. Favorite Historical.
"Last Call" by Patricia Bray. All I kept hearing about this was book was "Unicorn Vomit," which finally appears in "Last Call." It goes without saying that it has a profound effect on the MC and his life. My personal highlight of this story was actually the two cameos by Dr. Guillotin and Frau Shelly. I'm still laughing inside.
"The Alchemy of Alcohol" by Seanan McGuire. Not only is this a great story about love, jealousy, and fighting for survival, but an alchemist has to confront the supernatural in the basement of the Ur-Bar if the Summer King and Winter Queen are to survive. Two great recipes for drinks are included after this story. Fantastic!
"The Grand Tour" by Juliet McKenna. I didn't recognize the historical figures at first as they have problems in Austria and end up in Giglamesh's care at the Ur-Bar. The final scene brings things into perspective and made me want to read more about Sir Harold and Sir Eustace and the Treaty of Versailles.
"Paris 24" by Laura Anne Gilman. This was a pretty good tale. Olympic Fencers in Paris for the '24 games find themselves at the Ur-Bar. Gilgamesh chats up the fiction MC and through their conversation changes a young man's life.
"Steady Hands and a Heart of Oak" by Ian Tregillis. I wasn't sure what to expect from this as it starts out with bomb sappers in WWII. Tregillis presents a likable and despicable character. He draws personal conflict together with the threat of unexploded bombs in London and neatly ties things off with a little help from Gil at the Ur-Bar. Favorite story!
"Forbidden" by Avery Shade. The first sci-fi story in the anthology fits in nicely with the advancing timeline. Here, a woman from the future takes a harsh look at 1987 and for all the superficial individualism, finds that she might enjoy this time period more than the sterile, controlled one she originates from.
"Where We Are Is Hell" by Jackie Kessler. The first ghost story of the anthology, which portrays a woman caught in what she thinks is Hell, opening doors only to find more doors. Once in the Ur-Bar, Gilgamesh helps her remember her past and then offers her a choice, potential Hell through the next door, or take his place as the eternal barkeeper. Another favorite.
"Idzu-Bar" by Anton Strout. Gilgamesh and the Ur-Bar make their final appearance in a post-zombie apocalypse. Here nothing is as it seems, and though trouble is perhaps telegraphed a bit by how badly the MC wants to roll the newcomer, the execution is still satisfying. Braaaaaains!!
Unlike some anthologies which have perhaps a few great stories and a few real duds, this anthology was fairly level, delivering readable stories from start to finish. Some were more memorable than others, but that's to be expected. Gilgamesh and the Ur-Bar feature prominently in most of the tales, often affecting the outcome in some way or another, usually through the main character. It was nice to see consistency with Giglamesh, even though he's written by fifteen different authors.
Now, you go forth and read this book because unless you've swallowed Unicorn Vomit, you're not going to live forever. (And you'll have to read the anthology to get that one).
An excellent read, mostly!
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The Ur Bar created by the Sumerians and patronised by heroes, gods, zombies and all sorts of...Read more