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review 2012-04-30 00:00
Double Feature - Emma Bull,Will Shetterly This is an excellent book, it's just not a necessary book. That is, it contains some excellent writing. I consider myself to be a fan of both authors, and have read most of their work. That meant, I'd read everything in the book with the exception of an essay on writing fantasy by Emma Bull, and a previously unpublished early work by Will Shetterly. I actually really loved the new/old Shetterly story, even though it came with a disclaimer about how it's a rough, unoriginal, juvenile work. Stop apologizing, man! It's good! (It posits the invention of a device that stops time… but only within a finite bubble. The gadget is useful for preserving food, mementos, creating artwork… and possibly more sinister purposes.)
The bulk of the stories are from the Liavek shared-world series - and they worked better within the context of the original series. Go read them!
The book also includes the excellent novella Danceland, from the Bordertown, series, which I can't praise highly enough. Again, go read them!
Other than that, there's a story set in the world of Bull's "War for the Oaks," which appeared in the Diana Wynne Jones-edited 'Hidden Turnings,' and a Shetterly story which appeared in the Jane Yolen-edited 'Xanadu.'
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review 2011-08-20 00:00
Chimera - Will Shetterly A very enjoyable light read - an adventure/mystery set in a cyberpunk-y near future where gene-spliced hybrid human/animals have become an underclass. I felt like it would make a fun movie.
A beautiful part-cat woman pressures a hard-boiled gambling detective to take her on as a client. Her patron, an activist and scientist in favor of 'chimera' rights, has been murdered - and she could be framed for the crime.
While I liked reading it, I don't feel like it's one of those stories that will stick with me forever...

And, sorry, but I have got to bitch about the cover art. Does the woman on that cover look to you like she has "Mayan cheekbones, a wide nose, and copper-colored skin"? Not to me she doesn't. For that matter, she's not wearing a "short" jumpsuit either, although it IS iridescent green, and her boots are sort of silver, as described in the book.

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review 2011-02-21 00:00
Elsewhere - Will Shetterly Elsewhere is moody. It's from the viewpoint of young people who have dropped out and live on the streets, forming their own families and relationships. I don't especially feel comfortable with the idea of kids living this way, but that's one of the best things about reading. You get to see different worlds, lives, existences, and realize that humans are all the same, no matter what kind of lives they live.Ron came to the Bordertown to find his older brother. He was living in denial, and this trip helped him to find himself, to let go of notions about who he was and what was important in life. I liked seeing him go through that evolution.It was interesting how his name changed as his personality, or should I say who he thought he was, went through transitions. It was kind of ironic that he found peace within when his last manifestation would have seemed the most unfortunate. He found a family in the place he least expected it, but he sort of came full circle. To say more would be spoil the book.This is a thoughtful book, with the capacity to inspire deep emotions in a reader. I picked it up because I am intensely interested in stories about Faerie, and this book is very good for those who like Faerie. Along with those elements is a deep story that gives a little more along with the surface fantastical elements. This book is about how we think we express our identities, purpose, bonds of loyalty and affection. How a person takes all those ingredients and uses them to become who they are meant to be, if they can make it through the painful metamorphosis that leads to the final state: that of the butterfly who emerges from its chrysalis, not without a lot of pain and effort.
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review 2006-04-01 00:00
Elsewhere - Will Shetterly I’d actually read this before and forgotten. It’s a Bordertown novel, complete with punks, drugs, and unreliable magic. I didn’t like the main character at all, but I remember liking him in sequels.
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review 2005-04-01 00:00
Liavek - Will Shetterly,Emma Bull I was completely addicted to the Thieves' World series of the 1980s - at least for about the first six books. In case you're not familiar with them, it's a series of short story anthologies set in the town of Sanctuary, a sort of robbers' den of a town, at the far reaches of an empire that's seen better days - in other words, not much of a law and order kind of place. The trick to these stories, tho', was that any of the participating authors could use any character created by another author, and do anything to them short of killing them. As a result, we had a male character who, in the hands of another author, was recast as a woman in disguise; a thief of unknown parentage who started out just as a simple, hard-working criminal, but later learned that he was more than human; and, in one case, a military type who was revealed to be the avatar of a god and therefore immortal, which allowed another author to have him kidnapped and tortured at length by vivisection (yeah, they cut him up and he healed - over and over again. Didn't kill him - just hurt him. A lot.) They were a hell of a lot of fun to read, until the whole thing devolved into internecine wars between the various factions inhabiting Sanctuary - the failing imperial force, bands of mercenaries prone to switching sides at a moment's notice, an exiled ruler of still another country and her own entourage, including a well-armed militia... I intentionally avoid political thrillers because the who's-doing-what-to-whom part bores me, and I hate it when my SF goes that way. I soldiered on (pun sort of intended) until the series ended with Book 12, but it was only for the sake of finishing the job in a way, not because I was really enjoying the stories. Besides, they lost several of my favorite authors and their characters along the way, which took some of the gloss off.

Which is part of why I enjoyed Liavek so much - not only is it another anthology with shared characters in the manner of Thieves' World, it also brought back the sense of fun of those earlier volumes. Liavek was edited by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull, husband and wife authors of/contributors to such delightful reads as the Borderlands series, The War of the Oaks, and other "urban fantasy" in the vein of Charles de Lint. Apparently there are several other volumes of stories set in Liavek, which I think I'll have to track down.

Liavek is another cross-cultural town like Sanctuary, this one crawling with magics, or "luck" as most is termed - everyone has an opportunity to tap into their "luck" during the anniversary each year of the time frame of their mother's labor. A short labor means a brief time for accomplishing things not normally possible. Those who are magically gifted or trained can "invest" their luck in an object and thus have access to it at all times - but failure in carrying out the difficult investment ritual means death soon thereafter, and success leaves the wizard open to disaster if the object bearing their luck is discovered, lost, or destroyed. With this much magic at hand, most of these stories examine the dangers of an ill-considered reach for power, covert wars between rival wizards to undermine the competition, the complications of being a foundling (thus not knowing one's birthdate/time), etc.

None of the stories is earth-shatteringly good; but sometimes simply a ripping good yarn is just what the doctor ordered.
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