REVIEW: “Murmured Under the Moon” by Tim Pratt

Review of Tim Pratt, “Murmured Under the Moon”, Robots vs Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Gallery / Saga Press, 2018): 58-82 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Susan T. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Oh, I loved this one. Emily is the human librarian of a faerie library(!) and dating a living book of love poetry(!!), until one day fae soldiers turn up and start looting the place(!!!). Cue Emily teaming up with a piratical former fae princess and more living books, and going to retrieve her library. Some of the narrative a bit clunky, and I would have happy to have more about the side-characters, but I love the ideas and the visuals of this story and how Emily resolved her problems. It was sweet and exactly my sort of thing.

[Caution warning: mind control]

REVIEW: “Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell” by Tim Pratt

Review of Tim Pratt, “Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell”, Apex Magazine 106 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

Apex is really out to make me question my own reading preferences with this issue. I generally do not care for love stories – they’re fine and all, but I bristle at the implication that sexual or romantic love is the most important aspect of our lives. And then a beautiful little love story about the queens of hell shows up, and I’m head over heels for it.

Marla and Zufi, the dual queens of hell (and married, naturally), have been fighting for eight years, and neither is feeling particularly motivated to apologize. One of them decides to alleviate her boredom by re-opening the paths by which mortals can petition them, thus kick-starting some change. Also, ice cream is an important plot element.

The tone is exactly the sort that I fall for, and hard. It’s poetic and sarcastic at the same time, maintaining just enough distance from the bickering queens to recognize that they are being ridiculous, without holding them in contempt (no matter how Marla and Zufi may feel at any given time). There’s also a contrast between moments of formal speech and casual phrases that pleased me. It’s funny, without being a humorous story.

This story also does a nice job of incorporating mythic themes without hewing to any one mythology. It probably draws most from the Greeks and Romans, what with the ties between the underworld and the seasons and the flavor of the guardians set to make it hard for petitioners to get to the land of the dead, but it is it’s own thing, and well executed.

Best of all, this is a queer love story with a happy ending, which is all too rare. Recommended for fans of romance and people who like their love stories with a touch of the macabre.

REVIEW: “The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars” by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt

Review of Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt, The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars, Podcastle: 501 — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

Humor is hard. And when it doesn’t work for you, it’s hard to know if it doesn’t work or if it just doesn’t work for you. I get the impression that this story is part of a continuing holiday tradition, with references to the back-stories of characters like the boy mummy adopted by the eccentric American family. This installment is a slapstick humorous take on Lovecraftian-style horror, complete with elder gods and uncanny rituals to summon or dismiss them. All as part of a Christmas trip to an isolated Pacific island. The humor relied in part on the premise that bratty misbehaving children are inherently funny and that adults are inherently incompetent, which is also funny. It isn’t a bad story. The writing hangs together perfectly well, it was the right length for the amount of content, and the clever twist was neither out-of-the-blue nor over-telegraphed. But in the end, it didn’t work for me as humor. And I think that’s mostly because humor is hard and very individual.

REVIEW: “Six Jobs” by Tim Pratt

Review of Tim Pratt, Six Jobs, Podcastle: 497 — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

My expectations for this story were turned around several times in the course of listening to it–which is perhaps more a commentary on my tendency to set up expectations that on the story. From the title, I was first expecting a listicle story–a format I’m not entirely fond of. But although the six jobs of the story did provide the overall structure of the narrative, the through-line of the plot wasn’t the usual listicle structure.

Kayla has an unusual skill: the ability to see things that others can’t, especially connections between things. This brings her to the attention of various folks who are interested in making use of those skills, and the main thrust of the story is how Kayla turns her talents not only to making a living but to making a difference in the world as she understands it. The climax of the story depends on her rather naive tendency to believe what those other people tell her about their own purposes and goals. This is where the story expectations turned a few more times–or rather, turned one fewer time than I expected.

In the end, I wasn’t sure that Kayla had learned the right lesson about being skeptical of mysterious strangers offering her jobs, and rather than being a story about challenging first impressions, it settled for being a rather simpler quest resolution. I wanted one more twist at the end that I didn’t get. A good story, but not quite surprising enough to be a great one.

REVIEW: “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt

Review of Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt, “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft”, Apex Magazine 102: Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

I am a huge fan of the recent trend of people deconstructing Lovecraft’s work to create new stories, particularly when those stories tackle the racism that crept through his oeuvre. “The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft” is an excellent addition to that growing collection.

Jim Payne just wants to sell his great-grandfather’s letters from Lovecraft, get his money, and go home. He has no skin in this game (beyond the desire to get out of debt), and no interest in either his great-grandfather or his famous correspondent. But when he drives down the rutted, unmarked, dirt road dotted with bestial statues, and knocks on the door of a ramshackle house in the hills of New England, it’s no surprise that things get complicated.

Everything about this story fits together nicely. Jim is a wonderful narrator: observant, wry, and with a low tolerance for bullshit, which makes it easy to follow him through his adventure. The plot itself is perfectly compressed without feeling either too big for the word count or too small to be interesting; it’s just right. I thought that the racism – both in Lovecraft’s work and in modern America – was deftly handled, but as a white woman, I defer to the judgment of those who have personally experienced it.

Recommended for fans of Lovecraft, low-key horror, or either The Ballad of Black Tom (Victor LaValle) or Lovecraft Country (Matt Ruff).