I bought this anthology last year at Baltimore Comic-Con because Dynamite had awakened within me the idea of enjoying modern pulp fiction. Whether the collection succeeds as pulp depends on how strictly one hews to the definition of pulp. However, I did enjoy more stories than I didn’t. Even many of the romance stories were enjoyable to someone who doesn’t read within that genre. As I do with story collections, below are my thoughts on the individual stories.
Ted Bundy’s Beatle: It was OK. Not scary. A curious story to start off the anthology with. It’s in the horror section and starts off with lots of horror trope setups, but none of them pay off. It got me off on the wrong foot.
Snuff: This story, on the other hand, was a hilarious subversion of horror tropes. I love how the reader is set up to expect the worst and then it collapses.
Life in miniature: I predicted the general plot (seems like a Twilight Zone or Goosebumps summary), but the details were fun.
Vamp squad: Love the world building in this one. Good dose of noir cop story in a works with vampires. Vampire as metaphors for addiction is not unheard of, but is more rare than other vamp metaphors. I would watch a TV show set in this world.
Section 3A: A funny short story satirizing how legalistic schools have gotten. Want to copy it out if the book and email to my parents who are in the education business.
Memories of once being: It has promise in its setting, but I have no idea what happened. Its pulp element comes from how brutally the main character is treated.
Why Fried chicken matters: somehow even weirder than I thought it would be based on the title. Also, a poem!
Solomon’s Calliope: This story was the first one I got into in the sense that I didn’t want to put the Nook away until I finished the story. It reminds me of the science fiction I hear on Clarke’s World or Escape Pod. It had great world building, great action, and perfect pulp ending.
Every Time’s the First: Somehow the author took Memento and made it even more depressing. Also, interesting that the author’s a woman (or has a woman’s pen name) given the content of the story.
Baking: Last line could be from a romantic story or a horror story, funny how that worked out
Lunch w/ JFK: I think it ends with a pun, but I lost track of the story
Trespass: Probably the most poetic description of a one night stand I’ve ever read
How Am I going to play guitar now: It started off funny with Alesya messing up all the western stuff, but got pretty tragic pretty quickly; And had a sad ending. But this is why I like short fiction – there’s more room for alternative settings – like Eastern Europe – that don’t normally find their way to western bookshelves.
Coals Popped in the Fireplace: Wasn’t sure where that was going. Although the ending was to the trope, I felt as though Shea McCandless did a good job of keeping me guessing whether they’d subvert it.
Jan 3rd Love: Short poem
Osaka Dreams: Great fantasy short story. At first I was slightly confused at what was going on and who was who. But eventually I enjoyed it quite a bit. The plot was what I wish for when I have a bad day at the office.
Balesat’s Ashes: This was my favorite story in the collection. Not only great world-building, but a great story. I definitely want to see more in the world on this story. The author touched on such huge themes like loyalty and fealty in such a short space.
The Cat Had a Tail: Loved the wordplay in the title and loved the poetic beat of the story. Most pulpy in the collection, I think.
Southern Comfort: The reveal was quite a doozy. Definitely trigger warnings on this one.
What would Marlowe do: It was an OK poem, not my thing
Two bullets, One Shot: I was not expecting this to be a boxing story. I thought it was going to be a noir detective story. The stories were more touching than I expected.
Port Hope Christmas: My least favorite story in the collection.
The Bear: This short story had a nice, pulp feel and ending. I had a big grin when it ended.
Make a ready grave, my friend, Volero shoots to Kill!: This was a great traditional western. Very pulp feel to it. Reminds me of Jonah Hex.
The Case of the Villainous Vanishing Act: Very traditional pulp. My second favorite story in the collection.