Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Westward Weird edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes
Doing this blog actually makes me look closely at what I read and it’s exploding a few myths about my reading habits. It’s about 95% fantasy, which I freely admit and thought was the case before, but I say I don’t read portal fantasy, and if you go through what I’ve read and reviewed there’s a bit of that there. I also say I don’t really read anthologies because I’m not big on short fiction, but that’s probably not the case either. I read a few last year, I’m about to review an anthology and I can see another one peeking cheekily out of the TBR pile.
Westward Weird, published by Penguin and edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes is a concept anthology. Most of them seem to be on a theme these days. The much hyped, but disappointing Warriors collection was largely SFF stories about warriors and Westward Weird is a collection of SFF stories with a western theme. My motivation for reading the whole thing was really Seanan McGuire. I adore Seanan McGuire’s writing and ever since first encountering her at Worldcon in 2010 I have read and reviewed all of her novels, including the ones written under her pseudonym of Mira Grant. In March Seanan is releasing Discount Armageddon, the first book of her new InCryptid series. I’ve been lucky enough to read Discount Armageddon (I hope to have a review here sometime next week) and when I heard she had an InCryptid story in Westward Weird it was a must buy. I did also like some of the other names on the roster: Jody Lynn Nye and Kristine Katherine Rusch, I’d never read any Jay Lake, but I have wanted to try him and he’d put a story in Westward Weird.
Like most anthologies it’s a grab bag as far as content and quality goes. Some stories are excellent, some are so so and some didn’t appeal to me at all. The writers have certainly gone everywhere with the theme. Quite a number of the stories are very steampunkish in style, the wild west is starting to lend itself more and more to that sub genre, and others are best described as the coolest kid on the block in urban fantasy. We’ve got cyborg gunslingers, a deal with the devil, a sequel to War of the Worlds set in outer space, a clockwork cowboy, vampires and werewolves pop in, there are ghosts and sky cities, even a questing beast and talking mice. It’s eclectic, but it is fun. There’s really something to suit most tastes in here.
The standouts for me were Seanan’s story (I’m sure that’s a huge surprise), but I’m a sucker for anything that features the Aeslin Mice and The Flower of Arizona does that. I think Seanan was the only one who contributed something that is related to a current ongoing novel concept. It can actually be read without any knowledge of InCryptid and it will give you some useful information for when you do read Discount Armageddon (believe me EVERYONE is going to want to read Discount Armageddon, it is beyond cool), and if you’ve already read it, then you get to spend some more quality time with the Healy family and their community of talking mice. Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Renn and the Little Men was a whimsical little concept that was very silly, but also a lot of fun. I also really took to The Clockwork Cowboy by J. Steven York. They were my three favourites although I do have to give a special mention to Christopher McKitterick for Surveyor of Mars in attempting to write a sort of sequel to War of the Worlds. That takes guts and he pulls it off!
I’ve read much more hyped collections with better credentialed contributors, and come away disappointed. Not every story in Westward Weird hit the mark, but they did it more often than not. Highly recommended, especially if you like steampunk and Seanan McGuire.