Overall Rating of the Anthology: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
You can get the anthology on tor.com here.
Tor.com regularly publishes original fiction, short stories and novellas on their website. And each year, some of them are collected into an anthology. The stories in the 2016 edition are varied, but all are either Fantasy or Science Fiction.
While there were some stories that did not speak to me, there were also some really great and enjoyable ones. The best stories in the anthology, for me, are:
- The Destroyer – Tara Isabella Burton
- A Dead Djinn – P. Djeli Clark
- Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage – Alix E. Harrow
- Your Orisons May Be Recorded – Laurie Penny
- The Great Detective – Delia Sherman
- Finnegan’s Field – Angela Slatter
- That Game We Played During the War – Carrie Vaughn
Read on for a more detailed review of the individual stories.
Clover – Charlie Jane Anders
A couple is given a cat that brings them seven years of luck. After these years pass, another cat arrives and their luck turns. But despite not being lucky, there is something different about the new cat, Clover. Sometimes, she speaks.
I liked the story until the cat started to speak. It was still a good story it’s just that the whole fantasy part felt a bit out of place and rushed.
The Art of Space Travel – Nina Allan
The Edison Star hotel is thrown into turmoil when two of the astronauts that will soon travel to Mars, never to return, stay there. The story is not really about them however, as it is about a young woman caring for her mother with dementia and looking for her unknown father.
I liked this short story, but I had the problem with the ending. It just felt like it stopped in the middle of the story, like it was unfinished.
The Destroyer – Tara Isabella Burton
In the city of Rome, ruled by Caesar, a brilliant scientist gives birth to a daughter through parthogenesis. As her daughter grows older, she slowly but surely replaces her limbs with better ones made of metal. The more of her flesh she looses, the higher her mother climbs in the ranks of the Caesar’s scientist. But it is not enough.
I loved this story. The worldbuilding is really great, a mixture of ancient Rome and modern technology. I also loved the complicated relationship between mother and daughter and the ruthless ambition of the mother.
Traumphysik – Monica Byrne
A young MIT graduate volunteers for the war effort. Because she is female, she is sent to a tiny island in the Pacific, where her only job is to check in regularly with the navy and mind the light that guides the planes to their destinations. Alone on the island, she starts to study the theory of lucid dreaming – and the laws of that strange world we enter in our dreams.
Hmm. To be honest, this story was just too confusing for my taste. I like to understand what’s going on and I really didn’t here, particulary the ending left me utterly confused.
The High Lonesome Frontier – Rebecca Campbell
A story told across different times, held together by a common theme: the song “Where Does That Water Run?”, sung by Lily Gibbs.
Meh. This just wasn’t my style. All this jumping back and forth and the only connecting thread this one song. It didn’t really speak to me.
Lullaby for a Lost World – Aliette de Bodard
The world is ruined. There is only one place, the House, where the grass is still green and people can live in peace. But it is a peace that comes at a terrible price.
A very poetic story. I liked the setting, I really wanted to know more about the House.
A Dead Djinn – P. Djeli Clark
A djinn is found dead, all his blood drained from his body by a dark spell. Fatma, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entitites, is sent to investigate. But the mystery deepens with every clue she finds.
What an awesome setting, what great characters! Is there a complete novel about Fatma? Because I’d love to read it. Fatma is a badass investigator in one of the coolest worlds I’ve read about in a while. An Egypt full of djinns and angels and cults worshipping the old gods.
Breaking Water – Indrapramit Das
One morning, while he bathes, Krishna finds the body of a dead woman floating in the water. That same day, the dead begin to rise across the world.
An interesting zombie story about how Krishna and the journalist looking into his story both deal with the changes the rising dead bring.
Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage – Alix E. Harrow
The West is till wild and untamed. The land is everchanging so that one day there might be a valley where there were previously mountains. But Easterners are determined to make this land theirs. To do so, they need map-makers, half Westerners, half Easterners. They alone can hold the country still for a while so that surveyors can map it and slowly force their will on it.
The premise of this short story is awesome. Oona is a mapmaker who no longer wants to work for the company. But they have her consumptive brother and for him, she would do anything, including leading the company man into the untamed west. It’s a story full of great characters and a great setting.
The City Born Great – N.K. Jemisin
Every great city grows up and one day, they are born as something else. Each time that happens, there is a midwife helping the city into life and a dark entity intent on destroying it before it can be born. When New York is at that point, a young boy living on the streets is chosen as midwife.
A cool idea.
Everything That Isn’t Winter – Margaret Killjoy
The world as we know it has ended. Humanity has regrouped and one small group is In-Between, tilling the land and growing tea. But their existence is threatened by invaders from the south.
The romance didn’t really work for me. The idea was good though and I liked Bartley, the scout and their fight against the invaders.
The Weight of Memories – Cixin Liu
The story is a conversation between a mother, her fetus and the scientist that gave the unborn child all of its mother’s memories.
The style just didn’t work for me at all. All this back and forth like a theater play. I didn’t really care much for any of the characters.
The Maiden Thief – Melissa Marr
Each year around Verena’s birthday, a girl disappears from town, never to be seen again. First one of her sisters vanishes, then the next. Verena only wants to escape her life and when handsome Jakob woos her, she is ready to follow him anywhere.
It’s soon clear that it’s a retelling of Bluebeard. I like fairy tale retellings and I really liked this one. Sure, at first I wanted to strangle Verena for being so dumb but the end made up for all that.
The Caretakers – David Nickle
A group of people is summoned to a hotel by the enigmatic Miss Erish. They all owe her.
I liked the writing style and the atmosphere but we know nothing about the protagonists. Why are they at the hotel? What’s up with Miss Erish? Why do they owe her?
Your Orisons May Be Recorded – Laurie Penny
All your prayers are answered, just sometimes not the way you want them to. Heaven operates a call center for prayers, where angels and demons (there was a merger a while back) listen to people’s problems and rarely do anything helpful about it.
This story was awesome, it was so much fun! The idea was great, the characters were lovely, it was just a really good read.
meat+drink – Daniel Polansky
A group of vampires hides in the vacant houses of Baltimore, hunting for fresh prey.
The style was difficult to get into at first, but it worked. I liked the different take on vampires.
The Three Lives of Sonata James – Lettie Prell
In a world where the rich can be uploaded into mechanical bodies after their death, young Sonata James swears she will be different: she will only live three times, three bodies, no more.
An interesting setting that reminded me of Lock In. In a world where the rich can theoretically live forever, without the need to eat or drink or sleep, what happens with those that are still alive?
The Great Detective – Delia Sherman
Automata roam the streets of London, intricate clockwork creations capable of impressive feats. When Sir Arthur’s new Illogical Engine is stolen, he sets off with his apprentice, Tacy and the ghost of his ancestress trapped in a doll-like automaton to consult the great Mycroft Holmes and his Rational Engine.
This story was fun. Steampunk London, mixed with Sherlock Holmes and the grumpy ghost of a welsh lady? Good times.
Finnegan’s Field – Angela Slatter
Three years ago, Anne’s daughter Maddie disappeared. Now she is back but Anne is sure there is something wrong with her. There is a shadow trailing behind her, something she can’t quite put her finger on.
A truly creepy read about fae and the children they steal.
The Weather – Caighlan Smith
A storm is brewing and Lolly’s family prepares to sit it out while everyone who can, flees the town.
The story was okay but I would have liked to get a bit more on the storm and how it happened.
Terminal – Lavie Tidhar
The sick, the dying, those yearning, they all leave earth in small pods headed for Mars. A whole fleet of them, travelling across the darkness to Terminal, and a new beginning.
A sweet story about loneliness and the travel to another planet.
Her Scales Shine Like Music – Rajnar Vajra
The crew of a small ship explores a new planet, hoping for rich geological finds. What they find instead is the remnants of alien travellers. One of them is left behind to guard the find and their right to it. Poet is all alone on a strange planet. Except he isn’t. From the depths of the lake, a beautiful, strange creature rises.
I liked this story, the descriptions of the planet and the creature and the gentle relationship between them.
La beauté sans vertu – Genevieve Valentine
Maria is the gem of the House, the greatest model of them all. When Rhea, the designer, chooses her to model her masterpiece, things do not go as expected.
The theme running through the story is that of the fairy tale of Diamonds and Toads, where one sister is rewarded for her goodness by diamonds falling out of her mouth and the other punished by toads falling out of hers. The story was beautifully written, but too confusing for my taste.
That Game We Played During the War – Carrie Vaughn
Enith and Gaanth have been at war for centuries. A difficult war, considering the Gaanth are telepath, whereas the Enith are not. But now the war has ended and a field medic from Enith travels to Gaanth to visit the Major who was once her prisoner.
I liked this story a lot. I liked the main characters and the way telepathy is integrated into the story. How do you fight against someone who can read your thoughts? How do you play chess with them?
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers – Alyssa Wong
Two sisters, Melanie and Hannah, can see the different futures that might be. They command lightning and storm and can influence the future – but it rarely has the consequences intended.
This story could have been great, but it was really confusing as well. It relates all these different timelines and they all end in catastrophe.
Overall, some great reads in this anthology and I highly recommend checking out Tor.com’s original stories.