This was an interesting collection of short stories written by a host of superb authors, about women, dangerous ones. As with most short story collections I've read, some of the pieces stood out for me more than the others. In some cases, the women weren't the main focal character of the story, in others, she was. In each, though, the word "dangerous" was interpreted a little differently than our conventional definition taught in elementary school. This is a fairly large collection, and to review each story individually would be more than any reader would want, so I'll write about those that were memorable to me in one way or another.
Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country Story
This was an interesting read. Western in its genre, and anything but typical, I was drawn in immediately. The story, written in first-person POV by the main character, a female outlaw in the wild west... was captivating by its gruff demeanor. So many westerns are written as rough, gruff pieces, and this was no different, except for the obvious. The outlaw was a woman. It was a different approach to an old storyline, and I enjoyed it.
Bombshells by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden Story
This was an interesting one. I'd heard of this author, and this series before, but haven't read any of the work. I found it to be a playful romp through a mixture of fantasy and a modern take on noir. In this piece, the main character, a women, narrates, and we come to understand her world and how she's maturing through it. And although she is quite formidable against those that oppose her, I found her to be an exceptional example of the differences "dangerous" can bring to our lives. This one had an intellect that one should be wary of, even if her countenance was demure and gentle. The occasional moments of snark were especially appreciated. I enjoyed the progression of the story, and the satisfying ending. This gave me an opportunity to sample Mr. Butcher's work and come to the decision that I should seek out more of it.
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale
This was one of those stories where the main character wasn't the dangerous woman, and yet she figured prominently in the story. She was the prize to be won, even though those fighting for her knew she wasn't good for them. I was impressed with the way the author introduced us to the main character, a young boy, and his treatment of his growth throughout the story. The author provided a perspective about women through this boy's eyes that we normally don't see. This story included some language I think could have been left out - but I understand why the author included it. The word choices pinpointed exactly time, place, emotion, education, and attitude. It was warranted, but not an enjoyable component of the story for me.
I Know How To Pick 'Em by Lawrence Block
This was super creepy - not in a horror or paranormal way, but in an icky psychological way. The main character, a man with a sorted past, made me feel a little like I needed to reach for the Clorox wipes after reading this story. The dangerous women in this piece was one who appears "off stage", yet feeds into the story's progression and intention very strongly. The feature that stuck with me the most about this piece was the near ambivalence of the main character, after behaving so deplorably. He still found justification. He's one sick guy... if that was the author's intent, he succeeded. It's certainly worth the read, just because finding creepy, icky stories like this is so rare. The experience, for literature's sake, is worth the time.
Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress
This was an interesting dystopian story whose characters spoke loudly to me. The hierarchy of the women and men in this society was fascinating, even a bit reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, yet from a different perspective. Again, the term 'dangerous' isn't what we'd expect. The danger here was actually strength. And that's what I loved most about it... the women in this piece were dangerous because of their strength, not because of their ability to hurt, or destroy; but rather, because of their ability to insight change and undermine all that was acceptable. In that respect, it was an uplifting tale. I enjoyed it very much.
I listened to the audiobook version of this collection, and the narrators who read were exceptional, each one. However, the voices that I thought were best suited for the pieces they read were Scott Brick, who read Wrestling Jesus, which I enjoyed for the narrator's ability to convey different characters, including their specific difference in ages; Jake Webber, who read I Know How To Pick 'Em because his dry and almost abrasive delivery was perfect for the piece; and my favorite, Janis Ian who read Second Arabesque, Very Slowly because I felt that she added an extra dimension of accuracy to the characters. After hearing her read, I felt these people were real, not just paragraphs on a page.
Interestingly enough, the one piece that was most difficult for me to get through was The Princess and The Queen by George R.R. Martin. I felt that the narrator did a fine job reading, however, for me, the material was overwhelmingly long, tedious, and lacked the punch I would expect from a short story or novella. So many details; far too many, for my tastes. But, I know many millions of readers enjoy his work, and I accept that I am in the minority. I can deal with that.
Overall, I found this to be a wonderful collection of shorts, and an excellent companion to a long road trip.
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