Tag Archives: Naked City

Naked City edited by Ellen Datlow

Overview
naked-city

Title: Naked City
Author: Ellen Datlow, Jim Butcher, Delia Sherman, Richard Bowes, Ellen Kushner, Christopher Fowler, Patricia Briggs, Pat Cadigan, Peter S. Beagle, Naomi Novik, Matthew Kressel, Kit Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Nathan Ballingrud, Melissa Marr, John Crowley, Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Lucius Shepard, Caitlin R. Kiernan & Elizabeth Bear
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Paranormal fantasy, Short story collections, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 28th June – 26th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Anthology
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Out in Brooklyn in a couple of spots you can walk down a street and almost think it’s a hundred and twenty-five years ago.

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Synopsis

In this thrilling collection of original stories, some of today’s hottest paranormal authors delight, thrill, and captivate readers with otherworldly tales of magic and mischief. In Jim Butcher’s “Curses”, Harry Dresden investigates how to lift a curse laid by the Fair Folk on the Chicago Cubs. In Patricia Briggs’s “Fairy Gifts”, a vampire is called home by magic to save the Fae who freed him from a dark curse. In Melissa Marr’s “Guns for the Dead”, the newly dead Frankie Lee seeks a job in the afterlife on the wrong side of the law. In Holly Black’s “Noble Rot”, a dying rock star discovers that the young woman who brings him food every day has some strange appetites of her own.

Featuring original stories from twenty authors, this dark, captivating, fabulous, and fantastical collection is not to be missed!

Thoughts

This is a seriously diverse collection of urban fantasy short stories. Not to mention fun and engaging. Probably moving right to the top of my list if I’m being honest. Normally my purview of urban fantasy is kind of small. But the breadth and width of these stories and the style in which they’re written… just wow.

I loved the fact that most of these short stories were standalones. I used to really enjoy finding new series through short stories and novellas. But, I have so many now that sometimes just reading a standalone without having to hunt out more of that world (I’m obsessive, I do this EVERY time) was kind of nice. I got a great taste of the imaginations and storytelling talents of a variety of authors, without actually feeling the need to buy more, more, more. Honestly, there is nothing worse than finding myself a new series to obsess over and then realising that I have a whole slew of new books to buy…

Although this is an urban fantasy collection, it does have a darker twist to it than usual. Every single one of these stories is a little bit dark, a lot bit fun and most don’t have a happy ending. Which, I tend to love, because I get a bit over all the happily ever afters… but it’s definitely something to keep in mind as you rip through the stories.

<- CorpsemouthCurses ->

Image source: Patricia Briggs

King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear

Overview
naked-city

Title: King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree
Author: Elizabeth Bear
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: CircusGhosts, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 26th December 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Following the line of his motion, I realized suddenly that there was an awful lot of ink on my arm.

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Synopsis

He followed the ghost to the Bottle Tree. Then he started to lose his memory. How will they get it back?

Thoughts

I think that one of my greatest fears about growing old is the idea of forgetting everything that I know. There is a history of dementia in my family, so it’s a particularly scary thought for me. Which kind of made this story quite intense and almost terrifying. After all, it’s about forgetting parts of yourself that you don’t even know your forgetting. Sounds a little too familiar if you ask me.

I loved that this story’s lead was actually a city. In a weird, metaphysical way. Or a deity of the city, that’s a huge conversation for another day. But the idea was still brilliant. It made me wonder what beings would be created by my cities and towns. What they would forget with the passage of time. And how their personalities would change.

Probably the thing that I loved most about this story though was the interconnection between the circus, death and ghosts. It’s a surprising mix and not one that I would have thought of for myself. Yet, it was so blatantly obvious with a backdrop of LA once you read it. Such a great adventure!

 <- The Colliers’ Venus (1893) ReviewNightmare Carnival Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

The Colliers’ Venus (1893) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Overview
naked-city

Title: The Colliers’ Venus (1893)
Author: Caitlin R. Kiernan
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 18th December 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: “How very inspirational.”

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Synopsis

There is something waking in the mines. But only he knows how to deal with it.

Thoughts

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that mines are kind of terrifying places. The passage of time is also terrifying, but in a more abstract way. So a story that somehow combines these two things? It actually worked out incredibly well as a scary short story. Nothing terrifying, not like the Stephen King books I’ve been reading lately… but still not a comfortable story.

There’s something about Kiernan’s short stories that are just a little darker and more twisted than the others in my collections. Or at least, in the collections that she’s been in. It’s nothing obvious and poignant, but, as soon as I finish one of her short stories I just feel… uncomfortable. And kind of just sit there feeling a bit “huh” over what I just read. Which is kind of amazing. But also means that I have to be in the right mood to enjoy her stuff.

I loved how this story was created out of a vague, dreamy state. Nothing felt concrete and real in the storyline and as I turned the last page I just kind of sat there staring at the wall. Trying to figure out all the intricacies of the storyline. I’m still not quite sure that I’ve got it… but that’s why I love to reread stories!

 <- The Skinny Girl ReviewKing Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

The Skinny Girl by Lucius Shepard

Overview
naked-city

Title: The Skinny Girl
Author: Lucius Shepard
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Death, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 17th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: No, it’s rather that he has yet to reach the point where life tips over into death, where the need for what she offers (be it surcease or something more graspable) outweighs everything else.

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Synopsis

When a photographer of the dead meets the skinny girl, he must finally face up to his obsession with death. But is she the real thing, or just a mimic? Only time will tell

Thoughts

I have a bit of a fascination with death and the macabre. However, I wouldn’t call it an obsession. I don’t hunt it out and I only truly appreciate it when the information is… well, there. But there are some people who have this obsession, and then there’s the character in this short story who just goes beyond what I would call an obsession to a whole new, fascinating realm. Also slightly disturbed, but the writing is so good that I choose to find it fascinating.

There is a bit of a Latin American theme threaded through this story. Specifically with the use of The Skinny Girl – I can’t remember what the other name for this death deity is. It was a nice departure from the normal mythos which I came across in my reading. Mostly they tend to briefly mention Latin America and then gloss over to the next cultural interest. It was nice to stay a little more (but not completely) immersed in one.

Although this story is about death, one’s obsession with it and their ultimate surrendering to the long night, I actually found this kind of poetic and sweet. Maybe because that’s a bit of my view of death anyway, it’s not necessarily a dark and horrible thing. Having said that, as romantic as I found this (in an abstract way), it is still a kind of dark story. One that I look forwards to reading again.

 <- Daddy Longlegs of the Evening ReviewThe Colliers’ Venus (1893) Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

Daddy Longlegs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford

Overview
naked-city

Title: Daddy Longlegs of the Evening
Author: Jeffrey Ford
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Insects, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 11th December 2019
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: He’d traded a pair of official police handcuffs, with key, for the pack it came from.

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Synopsis

A daddy long legs found its way into their son’s ear and made a little nest for itself in his brain… what comes next is definitely the things that nightmares are made of.

Thoughts

I should start this review by saying that I actually really, really love spiders. I keep trying to convince my partner to let me have a pet one… and I specifically love Daddy Long Legs because they are super safe and really cool looking. One of the least creepy spiders in the kingdom. Having said all of that, I wasn’t so keen on this story. It was actually quite creepy and I sat there looking around my room for spiders when I was finished… I didn’t want to turn into Daddy!

I do love that this story works on peoples’ sometimes irrational fears of spiders and them crawling into your brain. I’m not even sure if that’s something that tends to happen… but it’s still something that a lot of people tend to fear. I love stories that take these fears and make them into something that is a little comic, but still quite creepy. Which seems to be a bit of a theme within Ford’s short stories.

Even though I found Daddy in this seriously creepy… I was still seriously happy that he got away in the end. It means that he was probably out killing a whole other town. But I was still really happy that he did… if I don’t think about it too hard. My brain is a really weird place.

 <- Noble Rot ReviewThe Skinny Girl Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

Noble Rot by Holly Black

Overview
naked-city

Title: Noble Rot
Author: Holly Black
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Humour, Urban fantasy, Zombies
Dates read: 5th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: “Don’t like good-byes,” she says.

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Synopsis

He’s slowly wasting away. But, there is a beautiful delivery girl that seems to keep his life interesting. Little does he know what she’s turning him into…

Thoughts

I’ve been around enough sick people in my life to know that disease and, the treatments, can completely mess up your taste buds. However, the ways in which this story plays with ideas of messed up taste buds is entirely unique. And more than a little bit gross. Although completely fun. as you can probably tell, I got a few somewhat mixed feelings about this.

There was so much backstory to this tale. Which made me dive in completely. I would also love to reread this, because now that I know what the lead female was doing the whole time… I feel like I’d be able to grasp at some of the hints throughout.

I love that this is about a sick man who is given a second chance at a new life. There is something beautiful, and really tragic about this. Which makes it fit perfectly into the theme of the Naked City collection.

 <- And Go Like This ReviewDaddy Longlegs of the Evening Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

And Go Like This by John Crowley

Overview
naked-city

Title: And Go Like This
Author: John Crowley
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Urban fantasy
Dates read:3rd December 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: And what about the great ones of the world, the leaders and the presidents-for-life and the field marshals and the members of parliaments and presidiums, have they really all come?

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Synopsis

Is the world overpopulated? What do we do about it?

Thoughts

The cadence and pace of this short story was a bit… off for me. Sometimes I love stories which don’t follow the more traditional flow of prose and I love them. This was not one of those. There was just something about it that I really, really couldn’t get into. Which was quite disappointing because there was something in this story that I think I could love.

I do love the fact that this story seems to be about overpopulation. It’s something that is of concern to me frequently and so it was kind of fun to read something that highlights this.

I don’t actually know if this story is saying that overpopulation is bad or good. I swear there was also some racist stuff in here… as I said… the cadence of this just threw me.

 <- Guns for the Dead ReviewNoble Rot Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

Guns for the Dead by Melissa Marr

Overview
naked-city

Title: Guns for the Dead
Author: Melissa Marr
Series: Graveminder #1.6
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Paranormal fantasy, Strong women
Dates read: 26th November 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: He sipped his drink and stared at Alicia, who now stood with her hands on her hips.

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Synopsis

Frank wants a job with the gun runner of the undead world. The interview is unique in so many ways. But, he might just get the job after all… if he survives.

Thoughts

I always like a good gun runner story. One that takes place in the land of the dead – well, it wasn’t entirely what I expected, but it was definitely enjoyable. The fact that the female in this was seriously tough and starts out the story by shooting a man… well, that is going to draw me in immediately.

I’ve been on some uncomfortable job interviews but starting out by getting shot and then ending by watching someone get killed. Well, it’s a lot more intense than any of the interviews I’ve ever been on. And hopefully ever will go on. But it was certainly an interesting way to tell a story.

This was a fantastic short story. Now I can’t wait to buy the books in the larger series! I’ve had them on my wishlist for a while, but this has certainly given me the inspiration to actually buy it this time.

 <- The Way Station ReviewAnd Go Like This Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

The Way Station by Nathan Ballingrud

Overview
naked-city

Title: The Way Station
Author: Nathan Ballingrud
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Paranormal fantasy, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 6th November 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: I’m worried, bro.

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Synopsis

We are all slightly lost, but Beltrane is more lost than most. Especially when he is forced to leave his own city. Will he embrace the beauty of his past, or the hope of his future?

Thoughts

We’ve all felt like we’re a little in the “between”. Which means that a story about this feeling makes total sense, and is a completely relatable feeling. Alright, the paranormal, drifty feel of the story isn’t as relatable. But that in between, lost ideal is.

Beltrane is an engaging lead. Normally I would find a man like this as a lead a little bit tedious and irritating. Yet, there is something relatable about him – his sense of loss with the advent of Katherine, his need to reconnect, but his unwillingness to let go of his past. This is echoed gloriously in the flickering between the stories’ timelines.

Whilst Beltrane didn’t really seem creepy, the presence of the other Betweeners highlighted that there is just something not right about his foot in the past. We all need to find a way to move forwards in our life, and sometimes to do so we have to actually let go of the past.

 <- The Projected Girl ReviewGuns for the Dead Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

The Projected Girl by Lavie Tidhar

Overview
naked-city

Title: The Projected Girl
Author: Lavie Tidhar
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Magic, Magical realism, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 31st October 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: And someone told on her.

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Synopsis

What happens when a magicians assistant truly disappears? Where did she go? Can a young Jewish boy finally solve the mystery?

Thoughts

This was a bit of a detective story. Not overtly, but the journey to find out what happened to the girl and whether the magician was guilty or not. Why did the girl disappear? It was a series of small questions that you wanted to know the answer to, but didn’t wrap you up in its power like many of the other detective series I’ve read do.

This was a great tying together of the past and the present. I’m noticing that I’m really enjoying stories which do this in a seamless way, and The Projected Girl actually moves to the top of the list for this. There is a young boy who, in reading a magician’s diary finds out that they’re connected to his family. And it could somehow answer some of the questions he just didn’t know to ask.

The Projected Girl explores Jewish culture and faith, their ties to family. It’s not a faith that I read much about, unless it has to do with the holocaust, so it was a lot of fun to do so. Especially late at night when I was a little bit overwhelmed by all the sadness in the world.

 <- Weston Walks ReviewThe Way Station Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs