Neither Here Nor There Kindle Edition
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Rambo is first and foremost a great writer. I think that she is a good example of why the phrase “speculative fiction” is used so much. Even her science fiction/steam punk stories have the lovely otherworldly feel of the best fantasy. “Neither Here Nor There” is actually two collections of short stories. “Neither Here” is focused on “high fantasy” (magical beings with an otherworldly setting). It could also be considered science fiction since the other world is a place where multiple dimensions meet but since it is filled with classic fantasy characters (witches, wizards, etc.) it definitely reads as fantasy. “Nor There” on the other hand focuses on “low fantasy” (urban paranormal/steam punk set in this world.) As a bonus, the author provides some background for each story whether its inspiration or original purpose. I love tidbits like that.
While both sections are excellent, which you prefer will be determined by your taste. I generally lean toward hard science fiction and low fantasy so “Nor There” was especially enjoyable. (The last and shortest story “My Grandmother’s Quilt” had me crying.) But… “Neither Here” had one of my new favorite characters “The Dark” (I’m a little worried that yet another favorite of mine is an assassin :)) and characters that I would like to meet again (Moulder and Small).
This wonderful collection is now in my “read it again” rotation so that makes this a five star for me.
I am mostly familiar with Cat Rambo through her tweets. I subscribe to her twitter feed because she's the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and she has a lot of connections and I get a pretty good idea of what's happening in the sci-fi/fantasy world that I should be aware of. But since I wasn't familiar with her work itself, when I had the opportunity to review one of her collections I jumped at the chance. I happen to love short stories, so this seemed just about right for me.
Rambo has a nice, easy-flowing style that makes reading a pleasure, but I did find that all these stories had the general same tone and pacing to them. So much so, in fact, that nothing really stood out to me. I'm typically pretty liberal with marking up my Kindle books - making notes, highlighting sections, and marking which stories I liked and why (or which I did not like, and also why) and there's not a single note in this book. Nothing stuck out - nothing was bad or terrible, but nothing was particularly memorable either.
One of the things I enjoy as much as the stories themselves, when reading a collection or an anthology, is the comments about the story by the author (or editor). Reading about why a story was written - what inspired it (sometimes just a call for a story to fit an anthology) or what the author was trying to do (blend two genres for instance) - is fascinating to me.
In her commentary on the stories Rambo notes that a few of the stories are placed in certain worlds that she has created in some of her other works. Not knowing these works myself, this held no meaning to me, but fans of Rambo probably really will enjoy those stories in particular. The stories themselves did not make me want to rush out to read the other works.
I did expect to be in for a real treat. The first story in the collection ("Love, Resurrected") had a great sentence that hooked me and I expected to be really enthralled: "Three years after her death, she still labored in his service." But the story, a combination of exploring relationships and conflicts, paces evenly forward, not providing the highs and lows I typically enjoy in my reading.
So, too, with the rest.
One story stood out in this collection. "Coyote Barbie" was, perhaps, my favorite. Though it still held Rambo's even pacing, the style of the story was unlike any of the others.
This book contains the following stories, with an 'Afternotes' following each story:
"The Toad's Jewel"
"The Mage's Gift"
"The Subtler Art"
"How Dogs Came to the New Continent"
"To Read the Sea"
"A Brooch of Bone, A Hint of Tooth"
"Call and Answer, Plant and Harvest"
"Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart"
"The Coffeemaker's Passion"
"Elections at Villa Encantada"
"Seven Clockwork Angels, All Dancing on a Pin"
"The Wizards of West Seattle"
"Summer Night in Durham"
"Web of Blood and Iron"
"So Glad We Had This Time Together"
"Snakes on a Train"
"The Passing of Grandmother's Quilt"
Looking for a good book? Fans of Cat Rambo will enjoy this double-collection of short works, <em>Neither Here Nor There</em>, but new-comers will likely find this tremendously average.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The book is divided into two sections. "Nether Here" explores secondary worlds and high fantasy settings, most notably the world of Tabat (the setting for her Tabat series of novels), and "Nor There" explores fantasy within alternative Earth's (steampunk, modern urban fantasy, etc.) This approach allows readers to fully immerse themselves in one type of fantasy before turning the book over to indulge in another taste of the fantastic.
Though I tend to prefer alternative Earth stories, I have favorites from both sides. From "Neither Here" I particularly enjoyed "Love, Resurrected" and "To Read The Sea". From "Nor There" I loved "The Coffee Maker's Passion", "Snakes on a Train", and the excellent "Clockwork Faeries".
If you enjoy fantasy, you will definitely enjoy Cat's work.