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Read Some Books Initiative '16: Book 9

Book: Naked City
Author(s): Jim Butcher, Delia Sherman, Richard Bowes, Ellen Kushner, Christopher Fowler, Patricia Briggs, Pat Cadigan, Peter S. Beagle, Naomi Novik, Matthew Kressel, Kit Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Nathan Ballingrud, Melissa Marr, John Crowley, Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Lucius Shepard, Caitlin R. Kiernan and Elizabeth Bear.
Pages: 539/3383
Was it interesting? Most of the stories were, yes.
Well-written? yes.
Would I read it again? Maybe individual stories.
Would I read a sequel/further adventures/etc? Not sure...maybe?


Curses by Jim Butcher: This is a Dresden short story about someone affiliated with The Cubs coming to Dresden to try and lift the curse. In the course of solving the case, Dresden finds that maybe some curses have a purpose. He also gets to meet an old fae what had a hand in the original curse. ******** This was a fun Dresden romp with an interesting thinky bit at the end. Also, Dresden doesn’t get beat up, which is unusual. Maybe that’s only the full length books.

How the Pooka Came to New York City by Delia Sherman: Liam O’Casey, a horse traier from Ireland, frees a dog caught in a poacher’s trap. Madra, as it turns out, is not an ordinary dog but rather a Pooka who was unfortunately snared. Madra owes Liam a life debt and follows him across the ocean to mid 1800s America. Liam discovers that it’s harder to get a job with horses in the New World than he thought and Madra has trouble adjusting to the enormous amounts of iron the industrial age is bringing to the cities. *********I really liked this story quite a bit. Madra is proud and haughty in that Fae way but also blood bound to Liam until such time as Madra can save Liam’s life. Madra wishes it would be soon already! Through the story, Madra and Liam come to be more or less friends despite the blood bond and the resolution of the end leaves it open that the Pooka and Liam might just be friends despite the Pooka being Fae and Liam being human.

On the Slide by Richard Bowes: Sean Quinlan is a desperate actor of some talent who is probably one step away from being blacklisted due to a misunderstanding and a federal indictment. He is currently acting in an old 1960 revival cop drama as the second fiddle to the star of the show. Eventually, things become real enough to him that he “Slides” back into the actual 1960s. ************This story was really interesting for the first part when there was talk of people being able to “Slide” (the characters actually mention something about an old TV show that the name came from) and it was pretty clear that our hero was going to Slide at some point in time in the story. Unfortunately, the event happened as a Deus Ex Machina after most everything else was wrapped up, which was a bit of a let down. I think it would have been a more solid story if the Slide took place earlier.

The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner: Alec is a scholar bent on getting himself killed. He tries to provoke the local slum town swordsman, Richard St. Vier into running him through but the swordsman won’t have it. In fact, the swordsman sets himself up to become Alec’s bodyguard instead. Alec and Richard room together and eventually it is found out that Alec comes from “On the Hill” (where the rich people live). Then the people of the poor end of town find out that Alec is not only From the Hill but when the current Duchess of the city dies, Alec is named her heir. Now he has to survive a month without getting killed by his many sisters and his cousins and his aunts in order to claim the title. ************This was an interesting story of a rich kid slumming, but I don’t think Alec ever really wanted to be a nobel. Eventually he takes up the mantle but he and Richard have been so long in the poor end of town that the townies have started considering Alec one of their own. He does not break ties with them when he takes up the Dukedom...which would make a really interesting longer story.

Oblivion by Calvin Klein by Christopher Fowler: Helen is in a loveless marriage to an incredibly wealthy man who cheats on her whenever he can. She, in return, goes out shopping for revenge, buying everything and anything which piques her fancy. Her husband blocks her cards one day and in a fit of desperation she takes a hostage off the streets and forces him to go shopping with her. Her hostage is oddly amused rather than frightened and outraged and at the end of the shopping trip, he invites her to come along with his to his work. He runs a soup kitchen. He also may be the Green Man. *********This one was surprisingly fun to read. Helen has a THING for shopping which is more an addiction. She doesn’t ever seem happy with her things, just the acquiring of them and eventually she needs to acquire more and more to feel happy. Her hostage, who is also the Green man or an agent of said Green Man helps break that cycle and sets her on a new path.

Fairy Gifts by Patricia Briggs: Thomas lives in 1800 Butte, Montana - the American born and youngest son of a Chinese laundry/opium den owner. The gangs rough up the laundry on Thomas’ watch so his father sells him to the local vampire. Thomas is enslaved to the Master and to his father; his job bringing clients through the rat maze of mining tunnels to wherever the den is. One day, while puttering around the tunnels during his free time, Thomas rescues a young fae girl. She gifts him with what he wants in return for freeing her. Present day Thomas is called back to Butte to learn that the fae child has gone missing, is crazy and the rest of the fae in the area say she wants to be killed. Thomas takes care of the situation. *******I’ve read this one before in the collected stories put out by Patricia Briggs but it’s still an interesting story. Thomas is gifted with the ability to walk in sunlight by the fae and the story has a nice circular theme to it.

Picking up the Pieces by Pat Cadigan: Quinn is Jean's very much younger sister. She has always been rebellious and a little crazy but big hearted and never meant anyone any harm. Quinn falls in love with an East German named Martin and disappears for a while, only to call Jean to help her find Martin. He may be lost, he may be trying to ditch Quinn, Jean doesn’t know but she buys a ticket out to Berlin anyway to help her baby sister. When she gets there, it’s the eve of the fall of the Berlin wall. Quinn goes out to find Martin and Jean follows. Eventually, they find Martin and Jean observes him bringing people through the physical wall. Martin is not human, Quinn does not realize that she can’t be with him. It’s up to Jean to take her away so that Martin and his people can continue rescuing everyone who is trapped in the wall. *******This story was interesting in that Martin is separated from his people (who are apparently trapped in the physical wall) and he takes Quinn into his confidence because he thinks he will be forever alone. Then the wall came down and he is reunited with his people, which can’t include staying with Quinn. Quinn is too “young” to understand and her older sister has to tell he what is. Which kinda sucks for the older sister. The story captured the joy and happy disbelief that everyone had when the wall came down and I think that Martin’s loneliness and subsequent betrayal that he was something other was a pretty good metaphor for East Germans.

Underbridge by Peter S. Beagle: This is a story about a non-tenured professor who gets bounced from place to place until he lands a gig taking over for a faculty member at the University of Washington in Seattle. The professor is generally OK but doesn’t make friends easily (never has). Instead, he likes to go out walking about the city. One night he happens upon a concrete statue of a troll and a homeless man who minds the troll. Another night he walks by to see that the troll is actually a thing that can get up and walk around. A third night and the homeless man has him buy food to feed the troll so it doesn’t go eating people. A fourth night and the Professor is supplying live food in the form of the cat he has agreed to house sit. Eventually the Professor gets mad at a person and feeds them to the troll. The homeless man is appalled and then, he is no more. What the professor doesn’t count on is how fast the troll is. *********** Apparently there is a statue in Seattle called the Freemont Troll, which I know because Patty Briggs has a story about the troll. She also has a minder for the troll as well. I don’t think her minder gets eaten by the troll. Anyway, I thought it was neat to visit the troll again in literature from a different author. The story is nicely written, by the end we are kind of satisfied with the fate of the professor. I’ve been meaning to read some Beagle and I think I’ll go see what else he has to offer.

Priced to Sell by Naomi Novik: This is a fun story about a mythical NYC that is populated by elves and ghouls and other monsters all looking for a place to live. The protagonists are a real estate firm who try to find the right apartments for their clientele. *********** That was a quick summary, but really, that was the story. It’s fun, it’s fast paced and I enjoyed reading about the wheeling and dealing for the appartments with the proper atmosphere for whichever beastie wanted it.

The Bricks of Geleck by Matthew Kressel: This is a story about a destructive force whose job it is, is to go through and destroy cities so thoroughly that nobody remembers they even existed. The entity and its brothers have been doing this for a very long time, hanging out in their world beyond the physical world until they get twitchy and eat a city. One day, our destructive force is wandering around in the space it lives when it hears singing. It traces it to a young girl and discovers her singing brings back memories of the cities it has destroyed. It has a suit of flesh made so it can go around and talk to her without destroying anything but accidentally touches her father with a part of the suit that gets ripped. Her father ceases to ever exist as does she. Later, the entity realizes that the girl is a force that reincarnates when he finds another person with the same abilities. Its brothers get tetchy about the protagonist force of destruction paying so much attention to the girl that they destroy her city. The protagonist force tries to save the girl but she ceases to exist when the city is completely destroyed. The entity then spends the rest of its existence sitting on the spot where the girl ceased to exist. **************I liked this story as a “thing wants to change but cannot change the nature of being what it is” story. Its curiosity at the girl and what she can do and its sadness when its brothers destroy everything to get it to come back to the fold.

Weston Walks by Kit Reed. Weston is orphaned at a young age so spends the rest of his very wealthy life holed up in his mansion and refusing to let anyone into his life. His only concession to companionship is leading the “Weston Walks”; a tour of the city by a native. One day, he meets a strange woman, falls in love and discovers she lives in the underground. Weston follows her and decides to stay. ************* This was not my favorite story but it was a decently written one. I’m not sure Weston learns any lessons per se as he ends up alone in a different place. Maybe it’s a ‘no matter where you go, you are the only one there’ sort of lesson.

The Projected Girl by Lavie Tidhar: Danny is a jewish boy living in Israel on the cusp of his bar mitzvah. His uncle, perhaps a secret agent but certainly with a strange job that takes him all over the world doing things he doesn’t talk about. For Danny’s bar mitzvah, he gets Danny a magic set. Danny then takes his money and goes shopping for more books. In one of the stores he finds a diary of a magician and buys that. Researching the magician, he discovers that during WWII, the magician lost his assistant (as in she disappeared doing a magic trick). There is a painting on the wall where she supposedly disappeared which looks incredibly lifelike. Danny sleuths down the magician and the story and in the end, the picture is whitewashed but not before Danny discovers that the girl is missing from the painting. ******************I want to go see if the detective mentioned (that Danny reads) is a real bunch of detective stories because that sounds cool. This was a neat little detective story which turned slightly X-Files-y in the end.

The Way Station” by Nathan Ballingrud: Beltrane is a homeless Vet who is haunted by a city. New Orleans post Katrina to be precise. He wakes up one morning with a hole in his chest pouring out water. Inside is New Orleans. The pastor who works at the shelter invites Beltrane to meet with him and some other people who are also haunted. Beltrane has to decide if he is going to keep the ghost or give it up and he needs to give it up if he wants to find his estranged daughter. ***********I could not remember what this story was about until I cracked the book open again. It’s a decent story but not the best of the lot.

Guns for the Dead by Melissa Marr: This is a story about the afterlife, which comprises a bunch of different era towns all mashed up together. Alicia works in the wild west town opposing Mr. D who had her shot in real life. One day, Frank Lee Lemons applies for a job and they go to see Mr. D. *********** Another short description but this seems an intro to the world Marr is creating. There are some politics and world building and nice characterization going on. I’m thinking of putting the Graveminder stuff on my reading wishlist.

And go Like This by John Crowley: This is a story that takes its entire existence from a Buckminster Fuller quote: “There is room enough indoors in New York City for the whole 1963 world's population to enter, with room enough inside for all hands to dance the twist in average nightclub proximity.” It’s about a family making their way to their assigned spot of indoors New York because apparently the world thought it would take up Mr. Fuller’s claim and see if it was indeed true.************* I really liked this one despite the ludicrous premise. Maybe because of it. The story was really well written and super amusing.

Noble Rot by Holly Black: Agatha is a ghoul and makes friends with a sick and dying rocker. She delivers him fast food from the restaurant she works at and because he is nice and dying, she turns him into a ghoul. ************* Sorry, spoilers. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to read some Holly Black eventually and now I have. Maybe I have before? Oh wait, yes. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It’s her Spiderwick chronicles I’ve been meaning to read. So. Rot. I liked it quite a lot. There is hints and clues about Agatha’s nature which don’t come out until the near end when they should. I liked the character interaction and overall it was a well written story. It’s better than I’m writing it so give it a read.

Daddy Long Legs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford: A young boy has a spider crawl into his ear, eat its way to his brain and take over the boy’s life. Eventually the spider eats a bunch of people in the failing village and then moves on to Washington. ****************I did not like this story very much. It wasn’t bad, it was just...eh. The premise was a bit too fantastical to get into (SNOPES PEOPLE!) which is a hoot considering I really enjoyed the Buckminster Fuller story and THAT one was ludicrous. I was kinda bored reading Daddy Long Legs and when I got to the end I thought “What’s the next one about? I hope it’s entertaining.” so that isn’t a ringing endorsement.

The Skinny Girl by Lucius Shepard: Hugo Lis is a photographer in Mexico City who photographs dead people. His photographs are considered art and many people say he captures something in them which makes the pictures notable. One day, Hugo is kidnapped and taken to a house where he is left. Eventually, he wanders past several bizarre rooms to meet “The Skinny Girl”. She may or may not be death itself. He takes pictures and afterwards he isn’t interested in taking pictures of dead people. *******This was also not one of my favorite stories but it was written well and interesting to read. It just didn’t grab me or say anything about itself that I would remember after having read it.

The Colliers’ Venus (1893) by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Professor Ogiivy curates at the museum in the frontier mining town of Capitol Hill. His friend Dora, whom the Professor has a romantic interest in, comes to tell him about weird goings on in the mines. She is an engine mechanic for the mining company and tells the Professor that the company opened the deep old mine which had flooded some years ago. Strange creatures are found live in rocks and the strangest one is a woman who has killed two miners. She and the company geologist want the Professor to look at this woman and tell them who or what she is. The Professor does and the woman isn’t exactly a woman but the concept of time (or something close to that) given form by the miners that died. She asks the Professor to release her from the form and because he understands the passage of time, he somehow does. ************I didn’t quite understand this story, or maybe this story isn’t the cousin for me. It held my interest right up until the last few pages, at which point the story kind of abruptly ended. Or it got too philosophical for me (I was running on not a lot of sleep). It seemed to take its time building and then BAMN solved. I would have liked maybe a bit more meat to flesh out the time-woman, but overall it was a very good story premise. I think with different pacing I would have really enjoyed the read, rather than feeling disappointed.

King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle tree by Elizabeth Bear: This is a story about Jackie, who sees ghosts and remembers things about Las Vegas. Someone wants Jackie to forget what he knows and is somehow leaching Jackie’s memories. Stewart, Jackie’s boyfriend and second half is disturbed by this because Jackie *is* the city, or at least half of the city. Stewart is the other half and if Jackie is forgetting things than that means the city is forgetting things and that is not good at all. The two of them track down who or what is doing this while Jackie slowly forgets more and more of who and what he is. ************I liked this story quite a lot. Jackie is an interesting character and Bear writes one losing their memories really well. Stewart is a well written secondary character and it’s hard to tell what the both of them are even though fairly early on it’s established that both are connected to the city and both seem to be aspects of the city. They are dead and yet alive and seem to be able to be killed. The end, although fairly quick to come to a resolution, makes sense and is satisfying (versus the story preceding it). I should read more Bear!
Tags: read some damned books
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