In an earlier review of The Power of Six, I mentioned my plans for a new feature where I read the first and last short story from a collection. In each post of this feature, I’ll briefly describe the two stories, and then indicate whether I’m inclined to read further in the collection. My theory is that editors place their strongest and/or most representative stories in the first and last positions.
I’ve decided to call my feature “Bookends”; physical bookends hold books together and upright on a shelf, and if editors are behaving as I suspect, these bookend stories hold a collection together.
First: A King in Exile by Bridget McKenna
I really enjoyed this story. If you are fond of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, then I’m betting you’ll like it as well. Unlike many sci-fi short stories, the “twist” comes somewhere in the beginning or middle, but there is still room for a powerful ending.
The story is set in Victorian England, and the characters’ actions and interactions feel authentic. [However, it should be noted that I am not an expert on the culture of England.] The main female character is a maverick, but she rebels against society in a believable way; she doesn’t seem like a 1970’s feminist parachuted into Victorian England. Her relationship with the main male character also seems appropriate for the time period, but would seem confusing in a modern setting.
Last: Serpent’s Foe by J.M. Ney-Grimm
This is a strange story where the protagonist’s consciousness jumps between a caged lion, an Egyptian priestess of a lion-headed goddess, and that goddess. I found it weird and a bit difficult to follow. If you’re interested in “literature” as much as science fiction, perhaps you’ll get more out of it than I did.
To read, or not to read?
What should I do when my two story sample yields one positive and one negative? In this case, I suspect I will continue reading. The first story left me with a highly positive impression, outweighing any reservations I had about the last story.