Rags and Bones: Truth in Anthologies

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless TalesRags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales by Melissa Marr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anthologies and I, well, we've got something worked out.  They'll collect stories, many of which are by authors I wouldn't normally choose to read.  I'll read the stories.  I'll dislike about half and love the other half.  Generally, I find myself genuinely surprised at certain authors.

Par for the course here.  Rags and Bones is quite a nice anthology, actually.  Several of the stories are just outstanding, while others, er, not so much.  It's just easier to do a breakdown of the stories themselves, so, here we go:

That the Machine May Progress Eternally by Carrie Ryan

Talk about starting out strong!  Many years ago (okay, like, three), I started In the Forest of Hands and Teeth.  For some vague reason which has floated out of my consciousness entirely, I didn't finish it.  After reading this story, I have a strong urge to revisit Ryan's novels.  Ryan writes with confidence, and she makes a rather simple scenario extremely frightening.  I find that the things that scare me the most are the conceivable.  No vampires or monsters, but rather the perversity of human nature.  Or inhuman nature.  This one is just fantastic and I'll have to go track down the E.M. Forster story--I had no idea he wrote anything like this!

Losing Her Divinity by Garth Nix

Nix is one of my favorite MG/YA authors, and it's a shame he doesn't have more recognition.  I've not read the original Rudyard Kipling story (don't worry, it's on my list), but the narration of this story was absolutely pitch perfect.  The befuddled (or is he?) man explaining strange events that occurred in a steampunkified India is intriguing.  As you may know, I love me an unreliable narrator, so this was clearly a good match for me.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.

DUH NEIL GAIMAN  *fangirls obsessively*  I have a coworker who actually met him and got his picture.  So jealous.  But in all serious, the gentleman can WRITE.  I love Sleeping Beauty, I love Neil Gaiman, and I love this story.  'Nuff said.

The Cold Corner by Tim Pratt

Well, gee, Mr. Pratt, now I am craving barbecue.  The good kind with the vinegary sauce.  This is an interesting meditation on the concept of the path not taken and all that Robert Frost jazz.  I didn't find it stereotypically negative towards Southern people, but then I'm a Yankee, so I have no right to judge.

Millcara by Holly Black

A retelling of Le Fanu's "Carmilla" from Carmilla's point of view.  Black's voice for "Millcara" is really spot-on here, and I can see how it dovetails with the original story while having it's own point of view.

When First We Were Gods by Rick Yancey

This one, along with Carrie Ryan's story, are the most sci-fi of the bunch, and I love them both.  In Yancey's future, you download your consciousness to a new body, thus allowing you to live forever.  This is kind of standard sci-fi fare, but the intricacies of the society that Yancey managed to create in a short story are fascinating, and the narrator is wonderfully despicable.

(This is where things started going downhill)

Sirocco by Margaret Stohl

Stohl is the co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series (which I have not read).  I attempted to read her standalone novel Icons last year and wasn't impressed.  The calibre of the writing simply isn't up there with Gaiman, Yancey, Black, or Nix.  It's very straightforward stuff that attempts to torturously squeeze itself into being cool.  Plus, I was kind of ticked that she picked The Castle of Otranto and gave it this weird Hollywood treatment.  It also bothered me enormously that she wrote about a character ordering "due cappuccino" when it should be "due cappuccini."  Gah.  Plurals.

Awakened by Melissa Marr

This felt like Marr just really really really wanted to write a Selkie story and picked a piece of literature that involved the ocean: Kate Chopin's The Awakening.  Nothing in this story was even remotely believable, and I feel kind of ticked off on behalf of Kate Chopin.

New Chicago by Kelley Armstrong

I squealed (really, I did!) when I realized that this was a retelling of "The Monkey's Paw," which is one of my favorite Victorian horror stories.  It's truly creepy and truly well done (the original, that is).  This retelling was fine, but it didn't really riff on the original in the way that some of the better stories did.  It basically just transported the story from a stormy coast to the middle of a kind-of-zombie-apocalyptic-but-not-really future.  It also wasn't very scary.

The Soul Collector by Kami Garcia

Um ... what?  Supposedly this is based on Rumpetstiltskin, but I honestly couldn't have told you that from the story.  I thought she was referencing something a bit more obscure.  Yes, there's the whole "taking of valuable things in exchange for services rendered" aspect, but I found the setting jarring (future city + gritty mafia) and the time-skipping was extremely disorienting.

Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy by Saladin Ahmed

Quite a good story based on The Faerie Queene, which I haven't read.  In fact, I'm a bit afraid of reading it, because in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, Thursday dies (don't worry, not really a spoiler as she lives in other senses) reading The Faerie Queene because it is so boring.  A book that kills with boring.  Woo.   Anyway, I loved the twist Ahmed put on the story, and I actually enjoyed the snippets of the original, as I felt they worked quite well with his flipped point of view retelling.

Uncaged by Gene Wolfe

At first, I thought this was a retelling of "Une passion dans le d├ęsert" by Balzac because of the leopard, but it apparently references this werewolf story I've never heard of.  As in Nix's story, the narrative is disjointed and unreliable, but it's not done very well.  It shouldn't be completely obvious from the outset that he's lying, you know.  Plus, the ending didn't have much of a punch.

I'm not quite sure about the inclusion of Charles Vess' artwork, either, although it was ... fine.

Bottom line: read this for the first half, skip the second.  And then just go read "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs to feel better about scary stories.

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