Because all of life is stories.
When I heard that Neil Gaiman was writing his first story set in the Neverwhere universe in around a decade I was beyond excited. When I saw the list of other authors that were contributing to the same anthology my jaw hit the desk hard enough to implode several city blocks.
Scott Lynch. Neil Gaiman. Cherie Priest. Connie Willis. Garth Nix. Joe Abercrombie. Patrick Rothfuss.. Tons more besides.
Like most anthologies, not every story is a grand slam hit. But there were a few that stood out above the rest, and make the price of entry (or the effort of lending from a library) very very much worth it.
The central conceit of this anthology isn’t a certain genre, which is appealing to me. It revolves around a character type, namely, Rogues. Each story has a main or supporting character with a certain disregard for the rules and oozes charm or cunning. I’ll list off a few of my favorites here.
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
I love Neverwhere. Loooooooooove it. It’s a brilliant world with supremely interesting characters and a great plot. None of these characters, to me anyways, was more fun to follow than The Marquis de Carabas. That said, his page time did not do enough to sate my curiosity. Him getting a whole story to himself? Yes please. For people that haven’t read the original, the Marquis is a fixer of sorts, and our rogue. He finds things, steals things, returns things, collects and distributes favors like candy in a parade.
Bereft of the perfect coat, his very lovely coat with all sorts of hidden pockets that fits just right and creates a very dashing figure, the Marquis is not feeling himself. When a mushroom seller from the Floating Market requests he deliver a love letter, the Marquis is sent on a trip involving upright elephants, deadly shepherds, unwanted visits from family, and a very unpleasant water slide.
It has all the charm and certain lighthearted yet serious regard for deadly circumstances of Neverwhere, and gives me more of my favorite character from any of Gaiman’s books.
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss
A day in the life of Bast, charming yet lackadaisical student of Kvothe . I’m not even a little bit shocked at the things he gets up to, but I was delighted at the idea of the small business he runs helping the local children get out of trouble in return for secrets and favors.
With some books, going back and rereading them is like sinking into an old comfortable chair. It’s relaxing, perfect. The Lightning Tree (and by extension Rothfuss’ Four Corners world) is like that for me. There isn’t a whole lot that happens of significance here. Bast has a romance with a local girl, which from subtext seems to have been going on for awhile. He helps kids with their problems. He avoids studying and he raids an amateur still for liquor. All told, not a recipe for an exciting day. But told through Rothfuss’ words this story shines. There aren’t moments that bring you to the edge of your seat, but the story is comfortable. I can’t think of a better way to put it. The world that Rothfuss has spun is charming, and even spending a day lazing about under a lightning struck stump of a tree can provide an afternoon’s entertainment.
Now Showing by Connie Willis
Connie Willis. Most honored writer in the history of science fiction. Only person to ever win two Hugo awards and two Nebula awards in the same year.
This story takes place in a futuristic version of a mega-plex. Dozens of theaters, shops, cafés, restaurants, arcades, and a conspiracy that threatens to bring the whole thing toppling down upon itself. It’s a fun take on summer blockbuster cinema and my goodness THE PUNS.
Read it. Love it.
A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch
What I’ve come to expect from Scott Lynch is interesting characters, a realistic and unique world for them to interact in, and a healthy amount of creative swearing.
This one doesn’t disappoint.
Criminals transfigured into streetlamps. Carriages where the wheels are caged demons. Transport by magic and mechanical sparrow. A wizard with butterflies for hair.
And another thing. Excepting an automaton and two incredibly minor male characters, the entire cast is female. That’s another thing I get a lot of from Lynch. Wonderful female characters. This, for me, was the best story in the anthology.
These are just the top four from my reading. There are many more stories, most of which are entertaining. For me, these four were enough to pay the high price of entrance.