Tuesday 19 March 2013

Review: Down These Strange Streets edited by George R R Martin & Gardner Dozois

DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS - Stories of Urban Fantasy edited by George R R Martin and Gardner Dozois


RELEASE DATE: 13 February 2013

GENRE: Fiction - Fantasy

A collection of urban fantasy stories from some of the freshest writers around, including Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Diana Gabaldon and many more.

In Charlaine Harris's tale "Death by Dahlia", set in the world of Sookie Stackhouse, vampire Dahlia Lynley-Chivers heads to a lavish party which soon turns deadly. Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson series presents a thrilling tale of "In Red, With Pearls" where a werewolf PI races to crack a case involving zombies, witches and ... lawyers! 

Bestselling author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon's tale "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" follows Lord John as he journeys to the beautiful but sinister island paradise of Jamaica, where he immediately stumbles upon a mystery full of spiders, snakes, revolutionaries and zombies. 

With these and 13 more tales, Down These Strange Streets takes you to the cities where fantasy and mystery collide and where private eyes who have seen it all find something lurking that is stranger still ...

I was so excited when this book arrived. I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy and not only are several of my favourite authors featured in this anthology but there are several others that I've been itching to try out for quite some time now.

For once I read the foreword. I never normally do this but as it was written by the incredible George R R Martin, I decided to make an exception! And I'm glad I did because George took the time to explain what he feels is meant by "urban fantasy" and why he and Gardner Dozois didn't restrict themselves to assembling an anthology of stories written by contemporary urban fantasy authors. Okay, I don't necessarily agree with his definition but at least I was prepared for the fact I was going to encounter stories, which I wouldn't necessarily have classed as being in this particular genre.

You might remember that when I reviewed Seductress - Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, one of the things I liked about it was that I could dip in and out of it as when I liked and I didn't have to keep track of any characters or of what I'd read before. The same goes for this collection.

What I also liked was that it surprised me. There were stories I'd assumed I would love, like Charlaine Harris' ""Death by Dahlia", which I actually felt quite "meh" about and stories I thought I wouldn't enjoy because they were written by a historical fiction author or a mystery author, but which turned out to be really well crafted.

The highlights for me were:

The Bleeding Shadow by Joe R Lansdale: Wonderfully drawn characters whose voices seemed to leap off the page directly into my head. A real sense of time and place, a great pace and an unexpected detour into sci-fi.

Hungry Heart by Simon R Green: Author of the Nightside series, which was been on my want-to-try list for far too long, this is the story I most looked forwards to reading. I wasn't sold on the character of Holly Wylde, a witch who claimed to have literally had her heart stolen and who seemed quite 2 Dimensional to me. Thank goodness for John Taylor, PI and the Nightside; both of which were much more well drawn. I think this character and setting is probably better suited to a full length novel and I wonder whether this will grow/lessen the subconscious comparisons with John Constantine that I found myself making, not that that was a problem at all!

Pain and Suffering by S M Stirling: Having not read any of the Shadowspawn series, I found this story a great introduction to it. I'm assuming it's either a prequel to the series or an opportunity to expand on some of the characters included in it, but either way it felt gritty and vivid and you have to love the fact the author saw an opportunity to mock the whole "Twilight vampires sparkle" thing and went for it!

Hellbender by Laurie R King: A story about genetic experiments, intolerance and a PI trying to find the missing brother of a beautiful woman. It starts out innocuously enough - you'd be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a standard mystery - when the author throws in a sudden bombshell that makes you realise the story isn't set in the World as we know it. The whole idea of the Regeneration Experiments is disturbing and I really liked the ending. I would definitely read more about these characters and the version of the World they inhabit.

The Difference Between a Puzzle and a Mystery by M L N Hanover: What do you do when your murder suspect claims to be Beleth, the King of Hell? Detective Mason finds himself working with Richard Scarrey, a Consultant who might be able to help. I'm not going to say anymore because I would never have guessed how this story was going to go but you need to read it! And then let me know whether you think it's a puzzle or a mystery.

Lord John and the Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Anyone that reads my blog regularly will not be surprised to see I've picked out a story with a title that includes the word "zombies" as one of my highlights! The way that these zombies are made, and the consequences of doing it, makes a nice change to the more contemporary zombie post-apocalyptic novels that are prevalent at the moment.

What I realised from reading this book is that it's all too easy to keep on reading your favourite authors and not always so easy to convince yourself to branch out and try something new. An anthology is a great opportunity to do this and I definitely recommend this one.


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