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Wed, Aug. 19th, 2015, 05:38 pm

Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow. Datlow knows her stuff: this collection of creepy doll stories is exactly what it says on the tin. Contributors include Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, and Joyce Carol Oates—none of the stories particularly stood out, but none seemed to be real misfires either, because dolls are easily made creepy.

Mira Grant, Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus: Newsflesh novella with a mad scientist/researcher looking into zombie virus reservoir conditions; when a near-starved stranger shows up at her hideout, it signals a coming challenge (and also connects up with one of the previous novellas, though to say more is probably spoilery).

Lowball: A Wild Cards Novel, ed. George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass: Focusing on the cops of Fort Freak, this group of interconnected stories tracks the investigation of a string of joker disappearances. As it turns out, the jokers are being cruelly exploited, and a long-time favorite character is hurt terribly, perhaps irrevocably. This one doesn’t have the creepy politics of a few of the more recent volumes, but I’m not sure there’s anyone left whose fate I really want to know.

Daryl Gregory, Harrison Squared: Harrison Harrison returns with his scientist mother to the seaside town of Dunnsmouth, where many years before he’d lost his leg and his father. Yes, the Cthulhu mythos is the gift that keeps on giving, and here it gives a witty horror-adventure with a rage-filled but plucky teenage narrator and a school full of creepy kids who might be more than they seem. Harrison is both the same person who shows up in Gregory’s excellent novella We Are All Completely Fine and also different, as is the villainous and creepy Scrimshander; I wonder if Gregory will write a sequel to this or keep spinning the dials on his characters.

Daryl Gregory, Unpossible: Collection of short stories, often featuring difficult parent-child relations—mostly from the perspective of the child, which seems like a thing worth saying now that I’m a parent. A number of them play with the idea of superheroes, whether metafictionally or metaphorically or literally telling the story of what it’s like to be an ordinary human in a country ruled by a “science hero.” They were well-done but grabbed me less than Gregory’s more recent work, which I am still working my way through.

Aliya Whiteley, The Beauty: After a plague kills off all the women, the survivors in an isolated community enter into an unsettling and pleasurable relationship with the Beauty, a fungus which grew from the corpses of the women. It seems to be about the uncanniness of heterosexuality and the fact that we don’t reproduce copies of ourselves—or maybe it’s a rewriting of All My Darling Daughters; it’s a little hard to tell. Uncomfortable reading.

Elliott Kay, Good Intentions: I like Kay’s more recent sf series a lot, but this earlier fantasy is one in which a young man accidentally interrupts a spell and ends up bonded to an angel and a succubus who just loves to teach him about sex and tell him how good he is at sex and give him things etc. Waaaaay down the Id Vortex, and since his id and my id have little overlap in this regard, I stopped reading; I can’t exclude the possibility that he complicated the scenario more later on.

Samit Basu, Turbulence: After an Indian Airlines flight is exposed to something strange, everyone on board starts to develop powers. A really intriguing exploration of what superhero powers would look like from a different national perspective, albeit one heavily influenced by American pop culture via movies. There are some clear bad guys, but Basu presents the good guys as mostly well-motivated but not too clear on what “the right thing” is, which I liked.

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