I’ve mentioned before that I’m a dabbler when it comes to short stories. That counts for both reading and writing. It’s an ongoing thing for me to find more short fiction that works for me. It can get very hit or miss for me which can be frustrating. But a good logical starting point is with authors authors I already know I like.
This ebook compilation is one of the publications that got me thinking about getting an ereader. Ahmed’s debut novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, dropped last year and it is an excellent book with sequels on the way. He’s also one of the better people to follow in my twitter feed and part of the cadre of writer dads out there in SF. So his compilation was part of the first batch of books I stocked my new nook with. I had solid expectations and wasn’t disappointed a bit.
The compilation has eight stories in it and every one of them was enjoyable. I didn’t realize ahead of time, but the opening story, “Where Virtue Lives” actually provides some backstory to Throne. It stands alone perfectly, but if you’ve read the novel, “Where Virtue Lives” is worth the price of admission alone. Interconnected stories and novels like that make me super happy. There’s a second story from the Throne universe, “Judgement of Souls and Swords” and you better believe I’m going to be looking for the connections. As a fan, any way of continuing the story in a larger scope is always good.
There’s a Nebula nominee, “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela.” That went to some unexpected places in the best way possible. Actually a lot of the stories do that. I think one of the hallmarks of Ahmed’s writing is that he’s bringing in a different perspective to SF. The non-European basis for his worldbuilding is not only something that the genre as a whole should be talking about, but it’s also simply refreshing to have something different. Being refreshingly different is all that more important to me with short stories, I think. There’s less time to hook me, less time to wow me so take every edge you can get.
I’ve got an affinity for “Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions.” Perspective shift. The supervillain is the POV character. It’s been done before, but not nearly enough. A reversal of tropes is always a happy thing. “Doctor Diablo” is also a story I would love to read more of. Another one of those hallmarks of great stories for me. “Doctor Diablo,” “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride,” “The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” and “Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World” are all stories I thought were particularly ripe for more. I never felt any of the fiction was lacking. Each one nabbed my imagination and I would jump at the chance to read more about those worlds and characters.
So a lot of these stories have shown up elsewhere on the SF magazine scene. Most of them were from 2010 which got Ahmed the Campbell Award nomination. (That’s for the best new SF writer for those who don’t know) I encourage you to check this out as a proper compilation. They’re arranged perfectly with a great progression from one to the next which isn’t something you can get by scrounging up each story individually.