Sunday, November 25, 2018

Birthday Review: Short Fiction of Sarah Monette

Today is Sarah Monette's birthday, and in her honor here is a compilation of my Locus reviews of her short fiction (with a blog extract included).

Locus, January 2004

The longest story in Alchemy #1, Sarah Monette's "The Wall of Clouds", is also fine, about a strange set of patients at a convalescent home, perhaps sometime in the late nineteenth century, some unexpected deaths, and a perhaps haunted elevator.

Locus, September 2004

In Sarah Monette's "The Venebretti Necklace", Mr. Booth discovers a walled-in skeleton in one of the Museum's mysterious basements. He and archaeologist Miss Coburn learn that the skeleton is of Mrs. Stanhope, who disappeared at the same time as the cursed Venebretti Necklace more than a half-century before. The question is "Who buried her and why?". In a way this is a somewhat ordinary ghost story, but the characters, especially the pathologically shy Mr. Booth, and Monette's voice, make for a very entertaining read. I look forward to more stories of Mr. Booth.

Blog Post, early 2005

My favorite story in All Hallows #35 was "Bringing Helena Back", by Sarah Monette, one of her Kyle Murchison Booth stories. This time Booth agrees to help an old college friend bring his wife back from the dead (despite the fact that she died of a cocaine overdose in the company of another man).

Locus, August 2006

Lone Star Stories has three good stories: “A Night in Electric Squidland” by Sarah Monette may be the best, about a psychic investigator looking at disappearances from a shady nightclub.

Locus, February 2007

Sarah Monette is one of the most consistently enjoyable newer writers we have. “Amante Dorée”, at the Winter Paradox, is another delightful piece. Annabel St. Clair is a prostitute in New Orleans in an alternate history in which the French rule North America. She is also a spy for the French emperor, investigating people such as young Louis Vazquez, who claims to be a descendant of the last Bourbon king. Yet she is vulnerable – when she lets real emotion affect her, as with her flirtation with a British spy. And she, of course, has secrets … This short story has intrigue, romance, sexual ambiguity, death … lovely work.

Review of Fast Ships, Black Sails (Locus, December 2008)

The other highlight, for me, is Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette’s “Boojum”, which is SF – speculative pirate collections seem usually to manage to sneak in a couple of SF stories. And I admit I am a sucker for them. Here, a boojum is a living spaceship, bred in the atmosphere of a gas giant, and Black Alice Bradley is a crewmember forced to make a dangerous choice when aliens attack. The ending reaches for good old SFnal wonder, and makes it.

Locus, August 2008

There is also, in the Spring Postscripts, a decidedly weird story of wandering in dream world from Sarah Monette, “The World Without Sleep”, which struck me oddly only in that it seemed not quite right for a Kyle Murchison Booth story – other than that it’s quite good.

Locus, October 2009

And there’s more horror – of a sort, again, that appeals to me – at Clarkesworld. “White Charlie” is another of Sarah Monette’s Kyle Murchison Booth stories (though Booth’s name is not given here). In this one Booth must deal with the unwanted gift to his museum of some mostly worthless old books from a dotty benefactor. Unfortunately, the previous owner had tried to use the books to gain power – and in so doing had summoned a rather scary creature, that comes along with the gift. What I really liked here – besides the secondary characters – was the way Booth is forced to think twice about his response to the dangerous creature unwittingly loosed on the museum.

Locus, December 2009

One story in particular in Lovecraft Unbound is outstanding: “Mongoose”, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. This is set in the same future as their 2008 story “Boojum”. So we already know there’s Lewis Carroll lurking in the background, and the title of the new story points at Kipling. But Lovecraft is here too, as one Israel Irizzary is summoned to Kadath Station (other stations also have Lovecraftian names: Providence, Leng, Dunwich, etc.), to deal with an infestation of toves and raths. Carroll again – but if the creatures are named out of Carroll, they come from a Lovecraftian source – they are horrors out of space and time, that is. Monette and Bear nicely suggest that horror, and also suggest that bureaucratic screwups are a horror too, as they let Irizzary, with an unexpected ally, and with his partner Mongoose, deal with the infestation while learning some surprising facts about their universe.

Locus, May 2011

In May at Fantasy Magazine, Sarah Monette’s “The Devil in Gaylord’s Creek” is an involving story about a dead girl who has a job killing devils. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but Morgan, the narrator, is dead, and about 16, and with her rather prissy boss, or minder, or mentor, a man named Francis, she uses a magical sword to kill the Devil when he shows up. We learn something about these Devils – the one in Gaylord’s Creek was conjured from tragedy, and perhaps that’s always true – and we learn something about Morgan, and her life and death and afterlife, and her oddly affecting relationship with Francis. Good and original work.

Locus, March 2012

Sarah Monette's “Blue Lace Agate” (Lightspeed, January) is a buddy cop story – with the “cops” in question being instead members of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigation – worried about things like shoggoth larva smugglers. There's a decent murder mystery here, but as expected for this subgenre, the heart of the story is the developing relationship between two mismatched partners – and that is well-executed as well. I don't know if Monette plans more stories involving Jamie Keller and Mick Sharpton, but they would be welcome.

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