Reading: The Dream Eater

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I wrote not too long ago about reading several short stories in the anthology Brave New Love: 13 Dystopian Tales of Desire. For what it’s worth, I think the title is a bit misleading because of the four stories I’ve read, none of them have been filled with desire, but that’s neither here nor there, because they have all been good stories.

I just finished The Dream Eater by Carrie Ryan. It was a really great read. I was sucked in and curious about the world she was creating from the first page.

Spoilers for the story are below!

The only negative I can express at all for the story was the fact that I didn’t know for the first several pages that the narrator was male. It’s written in first person, and for some reason – perhaps because the protagonists of all the other stories I’d read thus far in the anthology had been female – I assumed that I was reading about a female until the narrator mentioned stripping down to his boxers about three pages in to the story.

The rest of the story was rather marvellous and posed an age-old philosophical and moral problem: is the misery of one a worthy sacrifice for the happiness of many? And the many references of building one’s happiness on the foundation of another’s misery seemed incredibly apt to me in our current world atmosphere of inflamed bigotry, war on women’s bodies and rights, and desperate, terrified homophobia. Add to that corporate greed, often unacknowledged human slavery, and fortunes built on blood, and it seems apparent that there are many people who seem not only willing, but eager, to build their happiness on the foundation of another person’s misery.

At the end of the story, the Crux declares her love for the narrator, and I admit that some cynical part of me was willing to ignore the quaint set-up of childhood friends who had grown to love each other and ask myself, “Does the Crux do this to other people, too? Does she perhaps do this to everyone? Has she slowly seduced every person she takes memories from, taking what joy she can in their love for her? Or is it only Went?” I suspect the author intended it to be only Went that she has these feelings for, but I am intrigued by a more sinister/pathetic/desperate idea of her seducing emotionally many of the people she encounters during her nightly duties.

All in all, it was a very strong story, and I find that I can recommend this anthology whole-heartedly. Even if the rest of the stories that I’ve yet to read don’t pan out, between Diana Peterfreuend’s Foundlings and Carrie Ryan’s The Dream Eater, it was money well spent.

Reading: Brave New Love: 15 Dystopian Tales of Desire

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Recently I’ve been on a book bender. Unlike an alcohol bender, where you end up saying all kinds of shit you wish you hadn’t, slurring your words, pointing your finger when you talk, and sometimes puking up your guts, a book bender is more like a calorie-less version of grabbing handfuls of cake and shoving it in your mouth, careless of how it smears on your cheeks and into your eyelashes. Nom, nom, nom, boooooooks! Must consume more boooooooks! Yummy books, with yummy words, oh, God, feed more more!

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Give me more!

My book bender began when I was down with a pneumonia/mono double whammy and completely high on some codeine cough syrup that my doctor prescribed for me. All I can say about that stuff is that there were several times I found myself thinking, “Damn good thing that I’m not an addict, because this codeine stuff is the bomb.” I also managed to do things on this cough syrup like get a massive, huge bruise on the top of my foot that was extremely painful and very ugly, with absolutely no memory of doing something to cause it. I also apparently ordered ten Kindle books, and nine actual paper books while doped up on.

I’m not being monogamous at all during my book bender, and I’ve been smashing my face into the pages of books both digital and paper with almost no discrimination lately – Greek myths, fairy tales of Russia, Ireland, England, and Romania, a book about the brothers Grimm, still reading Deathless, still crazy about The Book of Imaginary Beings, and I also picked up a wonderful Adrienne Rich volume of poetry with a poem on page one that packs quite a punch. Nom nom nom, words! Give ’em to me!

Imagine the goddess in this picture is me, and that the puppies are books, and that rather than sitting peacefully with them, I’m devouring them madly, smearing their bookliness all over my face and hands.
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One of the books I codeine-ordered from Amazon, I have no recollection of ordering at all, to the point that I half suspect that they just stuffed it into my Amazon box and charged me for it for fun because they psychically knew that I was high on codeine when I placed the rest of my order. The name of that one is Brave New Love: 15 Dystopian Tales of Desire edited by Paula Guran. I have a vague, very fuzzy recollection of thinking to myself, “You know, you should really learn to curtail your words. Your word counts are too high. You should take a crash course in short fiction. Buy a bunch of short stories!” Perhaps this book came from that train of thought? Regardless, I own it now, and in the midst of my book bender, I started smashing the book to my face (symbolically; I don’t need to give myself a black eye from book-love) and nom nom noming on it in tiny snatches of time over the last week.

I just read "Foundlings" by Diana Peterfreund in this anthology. Pretty great story!

I can’t say that the entire book is delicious, but of the two stories I’ve read so far, one is fairly good, and the other was really quite fantastic.

I’ll start with the fairly good and move on to the quite fantastic.

The first was Beserker Eyes by Maria V. Snyder. Set in a future where gene tweaking has left some with a ‘beserker’ gene, teens are held in what amount to prisons until it is determined whether or not they are a risk to society. All in all, the story was engaging enough. Though, I’m assuming in order to meet a short story word-count, there did seem to be some rather sweeping violations of ‘show don’t tell’. I felt that it ended abruptly, and I thought that it made a better beginning to a longer novel than a short story. Perhaps Ms. Snyder will want to explore this universe more. I think that a longer, full-fledged novel that dealt with the events of the short story and the aftermath would be worth reading. Then again, I’m not familiar with her writing, and perhaps she already has done something larger with this concept. Or maybe this was just something she needed to get out, and for her it ended where, to me as a reader, it should have began.

The second story was Foundlings by Diana Peterfreund. In a world where the ‘birther’ movement has gone too far, teenage girls are taken in as soon as they are discovered to be pregnant – ‘for their own good’ and to mitigate risk to the unborn child. In a few short pages, Peterfreund introduces us to this world in a way that is organic, natural, and mostly believable. The relationships between the three characters are compelling and by the end of the short story, I was invested in all of them, proud of all of them, and emotionally moved by all of three of them. It really is a very beautiful story, and I anticipate that I’ll read it again.

I’ll let you know as I continue to read like a glutton if there are other stories in this anthology that might make it worth the cover price. As it is, I don’t regret my codeine purchase. Not at all.

ETA: I have since read The Salt Sea and the Sky by Elizabeth Bear. It was another situation where I felt like the short story was actually the beginning of something more. It was well written and I was curious about the characters, but at the end I was much more interested in what might happen next than in what had actually transpired so far. Still, it was well-written enough to make me look up Elizabeth Bear on Amazon, and I found that she is the co-author of the wolf books that I heard so much about a few years back. I went ahead and bough the first wolf book for my kindle and am pondering buying one of the Promethean Age books, but the $18.99 for the Kindle edition ($24.00 for the paperback) is a bit steep, especially given the book bender I’ve been on, I probably should wait. The wolf book was at least more reasonably priced.