Jemisin does not mess around and writes short stories that pack a punch and hit their story beats very efficiently.
I enjoyed many of the stories in this book, which is high praise for short story collections in my experience. I got this book as a paper hardcover and I started writing down my thoughts at the beginning of every story after I finished it. The feel of writing with black ink in a paper book is something peculiar. It feels wrong on many levels, but rationally it just makes sense to keep my notes and thoughts as close to the source as possible. Only later do I want to synthesize these into something more coherent. And that time is now, so here we go.
Note: I did not annotate my thoughts for every story. The collection contains more than I treat here. These are just my thoughts and personal recommendations.
Brief thoughts on almost all short stories
A good and engaging short story about food and cooking?! Don't see this type of works often, but I am all for it. Very enjoyable.
The Effluent Engine
The story telling mechanics are laid out very cleary in this story, but that doesn't bother me because they certainly deliver. Nice and adventurous tale with many sides.
The Trojan Girl
Wow, interesting concept; anthropomorphizing computer code. However, the jumble of terms did not always make sense, which is fine for someone who is not as familiar with these, but it gets those with a more in-depth background out of the story.
Nice example of how you can play with the audience and develop tension by gradually releasing information about the story's perspective (i.e., from the main character's point-of-view).
The Brides of Heaven
Good exercise of laying out a story in a single conversation in just one room (admittedly, with some flashbacks). This piece treats themes that a male science fiction writer would almost never touch; i.e, motherhood and child-bearing.
Really nice and subtle twist at the end. Very interesting perspective on believable space exploration.
Creepy and dystopian, with apt social criticism. Jenkins is angry. And writings like these serve as a controlled vent to blow off steam.
Cuisine des Mémoires
Brilliant short story; amazing concept. I am really enjoying these food stories. Admittedly, the reveal in the end did not entirely live up to the setup, though I still found it satisfying.
Did not finish this one; failed to capture my attention in the beginning. I was making a train journey in a quite busy wagon at the time I attempted to read this story though.
On the Banks of the River Lex
I am not sure if I understood this story properly. It presents a nicely weird perspective on an apocalyps, but I did not find it very engaging.
Solid worldbuilding; stuff makes sense. The character conflicts are clear, which is key in these short stories.
Very effective despite its short length. Prime example of building tension through explicit time skips (i.e., reordering chapters).
Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough tomorrows
Apocalyps for everyone with real feelings, where the only survivors are 2000-era bloggers. Weirdly nostalgic feelings for a period I did not live through.
The You Train
Interesting format that keeps moving / progressing, which makes it pleasurable to follow. The story pertains to life in busy cities.
I found this story to be a bit boring; there was not much going on and there were no real character conflicts.
Every short story collection is a mixed bag of pieces with varying values on the scale of personal engagement, almost per definition. The ones I enjoyed most are the following three stories.
- The Effluent Engine
- Cuisine des Mémoires