Saturday, August 20, 2011

Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Melissa Marr, Holly Black and others

This anthology collects tales about cities and the people who live in them, whether they are human, supernatural or something else. Cities are their own places, and they have their own rules. These are stories of what goes on in cities.

Curses by Jim Butcher has Harry dealing with an actual curse on the Chicago Cubs. When someone comes to Harry to get the curse lifted, Harry must find out not only who cast the curse and why, but what can be done to make it go away. But what if the curse isn't really a curse after all? Can Harry understand the motivations of the Fairy King who cast the curse?

How the Pooka Came to New York City by Delia Sherman explains how a real live Irish Pooka managed the trip from Ireland to New York. Traveling with a human horse trainer by the name of Liam Casey, the Pooka must repay the debt of his life before he can bid goodbye to the man he traveled with. But in a city as full of iron and as against the Irish as New York, can Madra the Pooka save Liam's life and help him find a job? And can he find a way to survive the city on his own?

On the Slide by Richard Bowes follows an actor who plays a cop in a historical cop drama. But he feels as though he was born in the wrong era. When a chance event has him slip back into the past, will he enjoy his fate, or dread it?

The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner has Alec, a scholar from the Hill, who idolizes a swordsman named DuVier. But when he is disappointed that DuVier isn't running around killing people every day and he calls him a phony, will the swordsman kill him, or adopt him?

Oblivion by Calvin Klein by Christopher Fowler is about Helen Abbott, a woman addicted to shopping, who views shopping as sex and who indulges in it every day. When she catches her husband cheating on her, she goes on a fresh orgy of shopping. But when she and her cards finally hit their limit, will her world come crashing down around her?

Fairy Gifts by Patricia Briggs has Thomas, a vampire who has been imprisoned by the Fae, and finally released. But when he returns home to Butte, he becomes enmeshed in a dispute among the fae over a girl imprisoned in a mine. But can Thomas find his way through the murky waters of Fae double-dealing and discern the truth?

Picking up the Pieces, by Pat Cadogan has a girl following her sister to Europe. Her sister has followed her boyfriend, Martin, to Berlin, and the wall is about to come down. But now he's disappeared and Quinn, her sister, is desperate to find him. But in the chaos of the city, can they find Martin, and if Quinn disappears with him, will her family ever be the same?

Underbridge by Peter S. Beagle follows a young professor who moves to Seattle and encounters a real troll under a Bridge. But when he commits himself to helping the troll's keeper, will his sanity be able to take it?

Priced to Sell by Naomi Novik follows the trials and tribulations of two real estate brokers in New York city who try to keep their clients satisfied and happy ina city where building and unbuilding and rebuilding trouble everyone. But can they keep a vampire, a Kitsune and Jekyll and Hyde happy?

The Bricks of Gelecek by Matthew Kressel follows a being of Destruction who destroys cities along with his brothers. But when he takes a break from destruction, he discovers a girl whose songs bring back to his memories visions of cities he destroyed. And after a while of visiting her, he falls in love with her. But will his attempts to protect her end up destroying her as well?

Weston Walks by Kitt Reed, follows a damaged young man named Weston who gives walks showing parts of the city most people have never seen. But when he sees a young woman on one of his walks who shouldn't be there, he feels he must track her down. But when his obsession with pursuing her destroys his life, will he ever see her again?

The Projected Girl by Lavie Tidhar follows a young Jewish boy who wants to learn magic, and an incident of real magic, of a girl somehow drawn into a painting painted on a wall. But as he struggles to understand what really happened, can he save her, or is it already too late?

The Way Station by Nathan Balingrud follows a homeless man named Beltrane who is haunted by the shadows of his past, and of the daughter he neglected and ultimately left behind. but when his body starts birthing his memories to the world, can he find a way to reconnect with her?

Guns for the Dead by Melissa Marr follows a gun shop owner in the Land of the Dead, and a man named Frank who comes to her for a job. But can he find his way around in the sometimes contrary land of the Dead?

And Go Like This by John Crowley is about a couple new to the city, and how they go on living there. But how can they live in a world of overpopulation?

Noble Rot by Holly Black follows a dying Rock Star and a strange woman who comes to visit and feed him. Despite her seeming soft-heartedness, is she really there to help him, or will he end up on her strange menu?

Daddy Long Legs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford is about a spider who once burrowed into a boy's brain and took him over, spinning its web and utterly controlling him. But when that boy grew up, his body was not enough for the Spider. But what else can it control?

The Skinny Girl by Lucius Shepard follows a Hispanic photographer who discovers and chronicles the story of a real saint, Santa Muerte or "Saint Death". But who is she really, and what does she really want? Can he discover that on his own?

The Colliers' Venus (1893) by Caitlin R. Kiernan follows Professor Jeremiah Ogilvy, and the pitch-colored woman who he discovers at the bottom of the excavation shaft beneath the city. But who or what is she, and what does she want from him?

King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear follows a man who can see ghosts in Las Vegas. But when he finds a woman with a bottle tree, which is used to trap ghosts, can he figure out why she has it and who set it up? And who is using the spirits trapped inside it?

"Cities" is a very broad subject, so most of the stories in this volume really run the gamut of types of stories. Most of them are serious, with the exception of "Priced to Sell", and some of them almost cross the line from fantasy and into horror. But despite the wide variety of stories in this volume, I did enjoy many of them, and my favorites include "Curses", "How the Pooka Came to New York City", "Priced to Sell" and "The Bricks of Gelecek".

The stories in this volume do occasionally seem uneven, with the stories being all over the place, but I think that while I have my own favorites, other readers will enjoy other stories more or perhaps find different ones becoming their own favorites. As a whole, while I would definitely recommend some of the stories in this volume, others I would suggest skipping, so altogether, this story collection wasn't one of my favorites overall.

This one came up as "Meh" to me, even though there were stories I really enjoyed, others I simply didn't, and the broad nature of the volume didn't work in its favor for me. Too broad, too many stories I found uninteresting. YMMV, of course.

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