Dangerous Women is the cross genre anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois that came out in between Warriors and Rogues. This is also the last of the Tor books before the editors moved over to Bantam. Hardback, 784 pages, twenty one stories, nine by men, twelve by women, $32.50, published in 2013.
Martin’s introduction is an attempt to make us believe that women are dangerous.
“In the real world, of course, the question has long been settled. Even if the Amazons are mythological, their legend was inspired by memory of the ferocious warrior women of the Scythians, who were every much not mythological. Gladiatrix, women gladiators, fought other women–and sometimes men–to the death in the arenas of Ancient Rome. There were female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and even female samurai. Women served as frontline combat troops, feared for their ferocity, in the Russian Army during World War II, and serve so in Israel today.”
I will be upfront, I did not read all the stories in this book. I scanned or looked through seeing if it might be of interest but I was not going to slug through every story if it did grab me in the first couple pages.
Joe Abercrombie appears to be a favorite of Martin and Dozois for these anthologies. He has a spunky swords woman by the name of Shy in “Some Desperado.” Have you noticed the trend in fantasy to give characters names from adjectives? Abercrombie is riffing a spaghetti western right down to a ghost town and bounty hunters but this time with swords. Sorry, it does not work for me. This is the third Abercrombie story I have read and the third that has failed to make a positive impression on me. I have an analogy to make. Back in the mid-1930s, there was a writer Peter Ruric who wrote as “Paul Cain” for Black Mask magazine. He took Hammett’s stripped down prose approach to the extreme in a style with no adjectives. Some people love Paul Cain. I do not. Abercrombie is tilling similar soil.
I generally like Cecelia Holland who has a pedigree of historical novels going back to the late 1960s. “Nora’s Song” is an historical about one of King Henry II of England’s daughter. A story about a little kid did not interest me.
Carrie Vaughan of course in included with “Raisa Stepanova,” a story about Soviet female pilots in WWII. I would have loved to read a story about aerial warfare but the story has more talk, talk than machinegun bursts.
I mentioned about burning out a long time ago with Joe Lansdale. His stories in prole dialect of Jethro, John Boy, Cooter Bob and other East Texas in-breds wore its welcome out with me in short order. In “Wrestling Jesus,” he has a misfit teenage weakling taken under the wing of an aging former Mexican wrestler.
“Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson might be the best story in the book. I have never read Sanderson before. He came to the rescue of Tor Books by wrapping up Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. To go off tangent for a moment, for entertainment I used to go to Amazon and read the reviews of the later Jordan books by ex-fans. George R. R. Martin, take note.
A fantasy with settlers on a continent where ghosts known as shades will suck the life force out if you are not careful. An inn-keeper makes extra money nabbing outlaws for the bounty while not attracting the shades.
For some reason, I did read Sharon Kay Penman’s “A Queen in Exile.” The reason being it was about Queen Constance de Hauteville, daughter of Roger II of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the 12th Century. The Italian Norman kingdom is an area of interest for me. This was a typical female historical almost romance.
Nancy Kress’ “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” is a post-apocalyptic story. We have a character with the name of “Pretty.” Again, the trend of adjectival names. The apocalypse happens when most of the human race becomes infertile. I would think civilization would go out more with a whimper than a bang.
Diana Gabaldon’s “Virgins” is a tie-in with her Outlander series with Scottish mercenaries in France in the 1740s. She manages to make Scottish mercenaries boring.
If there is a character I really hate in fiction, it is S. M. Stirling’s Juniper Mackenzie in Dies the Fire. I really hoped cannibals would eat her, but no such luck. She returns in “Pronouncing Doom” in which she is a judge on a rape accusation. I still hope Mackenzie gets eaten in the future.
Judging from the library stamps on the back of the copy of this book, this has been popular. My educated guess is the inclusion of a George R. R. Martin Game of Thrones novella is the reason. Last week, I mentioned the civil war generations before the events in Game of Thrones. This is classic Martin. The latest story concerns events before this story. He is writing them out of sequence and events that he should put off until after finishing his big, fat fantasy series. This is the distant relating of events as the other story of the civil war within two branches of the Targaryen dynasty. It is the same shifting of sides, brutal murders and torture, treachery, and general nastiness we equate with Martin. Also in true fashion, he fails to wrap the story up. The story ends with “Aegon II would sit the Iron Throne again, but he would never recover from his wounds, would know neither joy nor peace. His restoration would endure for only half a year.”
So now we have two unfinished story lines of two different times in Westeros. Get this man an editor!
The idea for this book was not a great one. The editors and publisher were probably going on the idea that if they can get both males and females to read this book, sales will be double. It never works out this way. I just can’t see more than a few men reading this book. How many readers total read the Martin story and blew the rest of it off?