Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book Review: The Midnight Circus

The Midnight Circus 
by Jane Yolen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The introduction to this short story anthology is beautifully done. Jane Yolen shares a couple personal insights into this set of stories and directs everyone to take a look at the related poems (which make up the last half of this book) related to the stories themselves. Yolen truly is an endearing and lasting female SF/F author of her generation.

Story 1 - The Weaver of Tomorrow
Lovely little reminder that what you think you want may not be what you really crave. Love the use of time passing here to show the two inevitable pieces of life, birth and death.

Story 2 - The White Seal Maid
This story features a man and a selkie. It feels very similar to many stories I’ve read before, except it’s missing something. Perhaps it’s the desire to have an obvious moral at the end, or that our man is very one-dimensional, or that we never understand why the selkie chose to do what she does. Either way it wasn’t satisfying for me.

Story 3 - The Snatchers
Meh. Just okay.

Story 4 - Wilding
This is such a cool concept and the use of Central Park is just brilliant. I want so much more! It reads like the tease you'd send to a publisher to try and get them to endorse a full story being written. So very unsatisfying in length and content but really cool concept.

Story 5 - Requiem Antarctica
First, I want to sincerely thank Yolen for writing this. I did not know the history of the race to the South Pole. As I read this, and realized it is an alternate history, I immediately went and read pages on the events. If you read the Wikipedia page that will be enough to realize Yolen did a brilliant job of combining fact with fiction.
This is a jewel of a story. It's creative, briliant, contextually relevant, and an interesting way to learn about history. Absolutely amazing!

Story 6 - Night Wolves
I wish I’d read this story as a child or teen. Then perhaps I’d be a little less intimidated by the dark.
A clever manifestation of a certain kind of loss and grief. Very well done

Story 7 - The House of Seven Angels
Alternate origin story for Moses during his youth. Meh.

Story 8 - Great Grey
This one is creepy... like serial killer creepy but totally not that. Kind of clever. Wasn't perfect but a very solid read.

Story 9 - Little Red
I dunno what it is about little red riding hood but I can’t get tired of retelling or spins on her story. Wonderful rendition with a twist.

Story 10 - Winter’s King
As someone who lives in a cold place (and hates the heat; give me -30C over +30C any day of the week or year) this had a nice dose of melancholy for me.

Story 11 - Inscription
Interesting method of story telling used.

Story 12 - Dog Boy Remembers
Where’s the rest of the story?! This feels like a preview to a larger novel. Really interesting and well done but I want sooo much more. Does dog boy ever succeed in his desired revenge, what is the symbolism of the cap, and so much more. This should definitely be a full book to explore all the interesting nuances dog boy has."

Story 13 - The Fisherman’s Wife
Love the description of the mermaid as alien (not beautiful) and the use of communication (or lack thereof). A wonderful little tale.

Story 14 - Become a Warrior
A story about how women can become as strong and cunning as men. Although ultimately a revenge story which I often struggle with. Revenge feels so petty to me most times.

Story 15 - An Infestation of Angels
The Gipt in this story must be Hutts (Star Wars) as that was immediately what I imagined them as (lol). Clever little trick to make one think that a deity is watching over and not just biology at work.

Story 16 - Names
I didn’t really get this one to be honest...

Definitely some real gems in here. I'm giving it five stars overall if only because the Antartica story and Dog boy are easily shining stars that make this whole anthology worth reading. None of these are poorly written (It's Yolen and she keeps her high standard in place) or so bad that I didn't want to finish the story. Given how difficult it can be to find good, consistent anthologies this one is easily a step above most.
Yolen is an absolute champion of the writing world and each year that goes by, as I get older and so does she, I worry about the day she won’t be here anymore. With over 350+ stories out there published you’d think there is enough of Yolen in the word; but I do not. Please keep it coming!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

Some of these sound really cool! Especially the Antartica one.