[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
3.5/4 stars; I liked quite a few of these short stories, none of them made me roll my eyes, and to be fair, the essays at the end of the book were also quite interesting.
* “Single, Singularity”: While it doesn’t really invert the trope it’s based on, I’m a sucker for AI stories, and this one was both thrilling, and chilling in its ending.
* “Seeking Truth”: The ‘blind psychic’ trope, subverted in that here, the blind person is extremely skilled at reading other people, no need for special powers for that.
* “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place?”: A mix of Sesame Stree-like TV shows and jaded ex-super soldiers trying to go home. Very nostalgic, perhaps a wee bit long, but a good read nonetheless.
* “Chosen”: A comic twist on ‘the Chosen’, with jabs at tropes like the gun-toting weapons maniac, the Buffy-like teenager fighting demons, and pedantic occultist scholar. This one was really fun.
* “The White Dragon”: A different take on the ‘yellow peril’, in a 1920s San Francisco (also, I liked revisiting that city in such a light, now that I’ve finally been able to actually travel there).
* “Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone”: The Witch and the Damsel In Distress, poised against each other, each with their wiles and strengths, and with the story playing on the trope of men rescuing the Damsel... only they’re not the right people to do the job.
* “Burning Bright”: I really liked the main character here, just the right mix of slightly hinged and yet fairly grounded at the same time.
* “Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint)”: This story plays well on both the Santa Claus/Christmas and ‘old soldier goes back to war’ tropes.
* “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree”: At first I thought this would be about werewolves, and it turned out it was something else, which I liked.
* “Until There is Only Hunger”: A strong story, with a definite end-of-the-world feeling, dwindling hope mixed with growing despair, and characters trying to find whatever comfort they can, although this rings more and more hollow. Bonus point for characters not being typical cis/hetero/white.
* “Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini”: I suspected where this one was going, but I liked it, and it made me laugh.
* “The Tangled Web”: Love at first sight and romance woes... but not among humans, which lent a different dimension to this story.
The essays: definitely read those. They deal with the Hero’s Journey, its limitations, the Heroine’s Journey, its limitations as well, and push further, when it comes to trans and gay/lesbian heroes, which is really needed. Because let’s be honest: it’s already difficult to find a good story where a woman is not reduced to accomplishment = family/motherhood/taking care of others, but it’s even worse when you’re non-binary.