Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this? These stories are fantastic! I loved the ideas, the worlds, the characters. And the introduction by Patrick Rothfuss too 😀 (I can’t believe I haven’t read his books yet… will fix it soon, I hope.).
Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
First a few words about each of the stories, about the things I liked about them.
The Bound Man – The stories are supposed to be set chronologically as they were written, so the first stories were the oldest. I loved this one! Well, I do like Asian culture and the first story has a Japanese feel at the start and magical at that. Add to it a bit of a time-travel, some troll slaying and it’s all fun.
Yes, the story is not perfect – I missed the fight scenes, at least, the main one. The story simply skipped it. But the idea was fantastic.
Chrysalis – How about a bit of a science-fiction? This is a curious story about a woman, who travels to an alien planet to become a documentarian. Why? You will have to read it to see. It was a curious story and I liked how it ended, even if it was a bit rushed.
Rampion – That one was unexpected – a short introduction, or maybe a retelling of beginnings of Rapunzel’s story. Maybe nothing unexpected, but curious.
At the Edge of Dying – Ooooh, this was good. A fantastic idea of a magic system. Based on faith and… death. The closer to death you are the stronger is the magic in you. And this one has a detailed battle scene proving the author can do it and can do it well! I’d love to read more stories from this world.
Clockwork Chickadee – Well, this story wasn’t something I liked, but not because the story was but, but because it was told from the perspective of a manipulative character driven by an unreasonable revenge.
Body Language – Maybe you’d like a crime story? This one is set in an s-f environment where robotics is pretty advanced and when sometimes puppeteers are just the right choice to use as an agent. Well plotted, even with this length. Quite enjoyable and with a bit of a thrill at the end. Love the ending!
Waiting for Rain – An adorable and very romantic love story. Yup, that’s pretty much what it is. Don’t let the vineyard fool you ;).
First Flight – An interesting concept of time-travel, where you can only travel in time within your life span. Curious idea, but very limited. It would be a pity if that was the only way to do it. And what happens here? Our heroine is sent back in time to witness the third flight of the Wright brothers
Evil Robot Monkey – A short and rather sad story when you think of it. Maybe a bit too short, I’m not very good with flash fiction, but I feel if anything else would’ve been out of place.
The Consciousness Problem – This one reminded me of at least two movies about clones or robotic substitutes – Surrogates is one of them. It was a curious story and I still wonder about few things, but I do like how it ended with a promise.
For Solo Cello, op. 12 – Let’s talk about weird stories now :). Weird, but not very happy. It’s about a famous cellist who had lost his hand and is willing to give anything to be able to play again. The only thing I can tell you about how this one made me feel is – disappointment. Not in the story, but in him and his decisions.
For Want of a Nail – For some reason I have no idea what to write about this story. I do remember what had happened, but I can’t decide whether I liked it or not. It was a piece of an s-f tale, everything happened on some kind of spaceship, but I think I couldn’t get a full view of this world they lived in. Yes, I think that’s it – the world building was lacking here. I think it’s a short story, but I couldn’t get into it without understanding how everything works here and the vague information that was given to us simply weren’t enough.
The Shocking Affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland – A bit of a mystery story with the appearance of Holmes and Watson. All told from the perspective of a young woman who took part in the affairs. Curious, but lacked the tension and the mystery was simply revealed without any need of looking for clues.
Salt of the Earth – Somehow I couldn’t get myself to like this story. It all sounded so ridiculous. I get that the lack of salt might make some food conservation harder, but there are other ways to do it, so why would anyone care so much for the salt? Seriously, food would taste better without it, we’re just so used to it that we can’t help adding some.
Anyway, I might’ve not liked the idea, but the story was well crafted and the ending was simply perfect :).
American Changeling – What would you do if you were a full blooded fae brought up in human world only to open the gate to the faery world again? First of all – get used to the iron! That’s what Kim has to deal with when she grows up to fulfill her destiny. Good idea, but the story could use few more pages. Or a whole book. It seriously has a potential, but it was way too short and everything happened a bit chaotically and too fast.
The White Phoenix Feather – That was fun! I really enjoyed the combination of fighting and experiencing good food. The heroine was fantastic! This is definitely one of the stories I’d love to be expanded into a full novel. It reminded me a bit of “Grillbar Galactica”, that book was also a bit ridiculous and all about food :P.
We Interrupt This Broadcast – This and the following two stories chow us the possibility of what might’ve happened :). Yes, it seems with that technology it would be unreachable, but who knows if one twisted mind decided that’s the way the history should go.
Rockets Red – A lovely story on how to create a community with such a simple task. It shows you there can always be a way out of a bad situation if you’ll simply ask for help.
Oh, and “Bradbury Space Center” was a nice touch :D. Love the name. And I love how the author created the world of the future using the technology from the past, like the punch cards for programming.
The Lady Astronaut of Mars – A sad ending to this story set, but very well written. In such a short time it makes you care for the characters, makes you wonder whether you’d made the same choice.
Wow, that was a variety of stories. Quite an imagination to create them all and make them so distinct. When I’ve started reading these stories, I simply couldn’t stop! They pull you in, make you want more and more. I do wish some of these were longer. I do need to check out her other works. I remember I didn’t much like “Glamour in glass” but I might give it another go, maybe I wasn’t in a mood for it before.
Oh, and by the way – I did like the stories from the first half of the book more than the later ones. It’s funny, because as it was mentioned in the introduction they were set up chronologically. Maybe I preferred author’s earlier imagination better :). Or maybe these were just the topics I liked a bit more.