Review: “From This She Makes a Living?” by Esther Friesner

Review of Esther Friesner, “From This She Makes a Living?”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 43-63. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Esther Friesner has a pretty strong pedigree backing her up, with a Nebula Award, a huge stack of novels, plays, poems, and short stories to her name, as well as a popular Baen anthology series Chicks in Chainmail. I have to admit this is the first of her works that I’ve read, though. With that being said, maybe if you’re already a fan of her work you’ll really dig this, but personally it fell flat. The writing is good overall, and I hope it does work for you a lot better than it did me, though.

It’s a quirky and fourth wall-breaking piece of Jewish humor, with frequent interruptions and secondary narrative in the form of footnotes translating Yiddish words and phrases. The thing that most took me out of the piece was the frequent interruptions with the footnotes, as it began to feel like a joke that had been carried well past its expiration.

The story is set in a sort of in-between limbo-esque world where a bunch of Jews seem to get caught in a timeless existence, where people from all different time periods end up. Everything comes to a head when a young modern woman and a dragon are pulled into this world and the citizenry have to figure out how to deal with both the dragon and this independent young woman.

If you like quippy metafiction then this is probably a good piece for you, and it did start out as a good piece for me until it got a little stale, but it did grab my interest enough to check out more of Friesner’s work.

REVIEW: “The Breakdown of the Parasite/Host Relationship” by Paul R. Hardy

Review of Paul R. Hardy, “The Breakdown of the Parasite/Host Relationship”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 28-42. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Have you ever had to work on a group project with someone you just don’t get along with? Now imagine this person was fused to your body and you couldn’t communicate with them while you were awake. That’s the conceit of “The Breakdown of the Parasite/Host Relationship,” told through the chat logs between the project coordinator and the host and parasite who have been paired together for the job.

Through a mix of stubbornness and misunderstandings things escalate until intervention is needed, despite expense to the project. This is another one that didn’t make me laugh out loud, but I still appreciated the cleverness and odd familiarity of it. It brought me flashbacks of when I had to work in a group project in grad school and no one really had a personality that meshed.

Another recommended story, so we’re two for two with this anthology.

REVIEW: “A Game of Goblins” by Jim C. Hines

Review of Jim C. Hines, “A Game of Goblins”, Unidentified Funny Objects 6, 2017.  pp. 8-27. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This is my first time reading one of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy courtesy of the publisher as a reviewer for SFF Reviews.

With that out of the way, I have to say I did enjoy this clever little story that pokes a lot of fun at high fantasy tropes, especially the ritualism and hierarchy of human society. There wasn’t really anything in this one that made me legitimately laugh, more the sort of humor where you snort a little and go “that’s funny.” I did however thoroughly enjoy this one, which is apparently an offshoot of Hines’s Goblin Quest series, and definitely has me interested in checking that one out more.

The story centers on the conceit of the various human clans vying for dominance, which leads to the Loncasters invading the home of Golaka, our main protagonist and the resident cook for her goblin tribe. They end up kidnapping her and promising her in marriage to the young lad who is to be the next in line for the throne.

Like a lot of stories that lampoon racial (and racist) tropes, Golaka ends up being the most clever out of all of them, and outwitting her captors, winning her freedom and the admiration of the young boy she was betrothed to. A great intro story for the anthology.