Vampires in the Lemon Grove
by Karen Russell
This story ended up being a bit of a let down. You can find this story both in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008. The premise is about vampires, a sub-genre of horror that I have never really gotten into. Without really getting into their definition of vampires we have vampires that do things that others don’t typically do and it ended up being confusing. The vampire, with the help of his mate, discovers that sunlight does not hurt, that garlic has no effect, that sleeping in a coffin is optional. The vampires also discover that “blood does nothing” and so turn to alternative forms of nourishment, finally settling on sacred lemons grown in a church courtyard. Then his mate chooses to be a bat for awhile, trying out life without him and he is left with the lemons. So what do you do when life hands you lemons? Well, when you’re a vampire…
The story seemed a little muddy and confused and not sure what to do with the vampires when they had them. There seemed to be an overarching theme of only being something because someone says you are, about being one way for one person and another for a different person, and about falling out of love. It all was too much to cram into such a short story, with such an ill-defined world. I ended up just being confused and not getting very much out of the story at all.
The Cambist and Lord Iron
by Daniel Abraham
This short story was originally part of a collection of short stories titled Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, a collection of stories based on winning words at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was also published in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. “The Cambist and Lord Iron”, of course, was based on the word cambist. A cambist is a person that exchanges money from one exchange rate to another (franks to pounds, yen to dollars). In this story the cambist is approached by a rich man (Lord Iron) who wants to make trouble and exchange some very rare and practically unknown type of bills for pounds sterling. By English law the cambist must legally exchange the money in 24 hours. In this both Lord Iron and the reader learn an interesting lesson about economics that begins about money and ends about far greater things than that.
I really enjoyed this story, both it’s fairy tale take on the “fantastical” world of economics, and it’s approach to an economist as fairy tale hero. And, anyone that knows me and money knows that I really do think it’s all fantastical. The “quests” he was sent on and the difficult riddles he had to solve were very interesting, and apparently the conclusions the cambist comes to have caused flame wars in economist forums, with people coming down on both sides of the debate about the worth of money, items, time, freedom and life itself. It was all fascinating to read about and I enjoyed reading about the cambist and the sheer nerve and brains he used throughout the story. A lot of people were disappointed with the ending but, it being a fairy tale after all, I really couldn’t see it ending any other way. But, don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. It is available online below, as this short story has been nominated for a Hugo award. I believe it deserves it!
100 ‘Shots of Short’ Reading Challenge
This is an ongoing challenge that involves reading 100 short stories in whatever order or time frame you want to do them in. A fairly safe challenge to go for, I thought! Plus I got The Years Best Fantasy and Horror for Christmas and to really do it justice I wanted to review the stories individually instead of all as one lump. Reviewing it all together like that is hardly fair considering how many different editors and authors contributed to the book. They should each be judged on their own merits, I think. This doesn’t get me all the way to 100, but it gets me nearly half way there, and I have an older Years Best Fantasy and Horror that I bet will make up the difference.
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Chunkster Reading Challenge
I promised myself I would only sign up for two more challenges this year and here is one of them. The Chunkster Reading Challenge asks that you read a certain number of book with 450+ pages (of adult literature). And, boy, do I have just the books that can fill those shoes. You see, years ago I started reading a series and finished the first three and then waited for the fourth to come out. When the fourth finally did I started it only to realize I needed to reread the first three to really get number four. That was a depressing seven years ago now. My husband has since read through all four books and has been pestering me to read the series, so here is my promise to him. I will get it read this year, or fail this challenge!
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