Books Read in 2016: ‘Dangerous Women’ (George R. R. Martin & Gardner R. Dozois, Eds.)
Book Summary from Amazon:
All new and original to this anthology, the twenty-one stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities-including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.
Also included are original stories by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn, S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and more.
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction: “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster…Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”
It’s somewhat deceptive that I’ve marked this whole book as “read,” and that I’ve given the entire book a 3-star rating, when I’ve only gotten through a couple of the stories in it. I checked out the audiobook version from the library, but even though there are some amazingly talented vocal performers included in the collection, I think this is one that I’ll be better off purchasing sometime in the future and just picking up occasionally to cherry-pick stories from, depending on my mood.
Martin and Dozois, and whoever else helped come up with the idea for this anthology, had the fantastic idea of picking authors from a wide variety of genres—from high fantasy, urban fantasy, and distopias to hard and soft science fiction to historical fiction—to pen short stories in their beloved genres (and sometimes within their existing series) about women, good and bad, trying to break the stereotype of women as “the weaker sex.”
Story 1: “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie, read by Stana Katic
Story Summary from Goodreads:
As the sizzlingly fast-paced and action-packed story that follows demonstrates, sometimes chasing a fugitive can be as dangerous for the pursuers as for the pursued—particularly when the quarry has no place left to run….
This apparently fits within Abercrombie’s First Law series, which, according to Wikipedia, is a fantasy series “set in an epic fantasy world at war, reminiscent of medieval-era Europe and the greater Mediterranean world.” I personally would have guessed that it was a western series set some time in the 1870s in west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, etc., and populated by somewhat stereotypical male outlaws and a kickass female outlaw.
While it was well-written and engaging, there was no point to it. I never really knew who the main character, Shy South, was, what she had done, why she was on the run, and why I should care if she lived or died. There was really no arc to the story. Shy had a goal (survive) and plenty of conflict, but this could have been a chapter lifted out of the middle of a novel—because there was no actual plot to it. It seemed to be moving some larger storyline forward without ever truly becoming a standalone story in its own right.
Stana Katic (from Castle) did a great job with the main character’s narrative and dialogue, not quite as much with the men’s voices—though she did keep it highly entertaining.
Story 2: “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott, read by Jake Weber
Story Summary from LA Review of Books:
A pretty young mother, Lorie, falls under suspicion for killing her baby daughter, who has gone missing. This psychological thriller unfolds from the perspective of Lorie’s husband, who first defends Lorie from the scourge of public opinion but over time finds himself questioning her innocence as he observes her behavior: is her crazed partying indicative of her grief, or a celebration of freedom from childrearing? Every memory and event from her past begins to take on ominous significance in his mind.
Megan Abbott, according to the introduction in the book, is an author of “noir” mysteries. While I didn’t really get a sense of “noir” (think old movies like Laura or The Manchurian Candidate), it was a good mystery . . . and I found myself, along with the male POV character, starting to wonder if Lorie had committed the crime or not. At various times throughout listening to the story (brilliantly performed by Jake Weber, probably best know for his role as Joe Dubois on the TV show Medium), I actually found myself debating whether or not she could be the guilty party, which to me means that the author did her job—and did it well!
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)
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