Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Birthday Review: Stories of Liz Williams

Today is Liz Williams' birthday. She is one of our really fine writers, and perhaps doesn't get as much notice as she deserves. Here's my reviews of her work from Locus:

Locus, June 2002

"The Banquet of the Lords of Night", by Liz Williams (Asimov's, June), is very atmospheric, about a pastry chef in the future, when Earth has apparently fallen under the sway of aliens who cannot tolerate light.  The plot is in the end quite ordinary, but the presentation is neat enough to make the story worth the reading.

Locus, October 2004

Strange Horizons featured two strong, original, science fiction stories in August. Liz Williams's "The Pale" is a selkie story, set in the Scottish island, which are for some reason mysteriously isolated. The narrator's mother is apparently a selkie – the story is partly a clever way to give that a science-fictional rationale, but more significantly the sadness of the personal story of the selkie and her husband and children comes through.

Locus, December 2004

The Fall Electric Velocipede features fine work from Liz Williams. "The Marsella" is about a young Englishman in Barcelona who indulges at an absinthe bar and finds himself in a hallucinatory episode where he must fight a dragon as a Champion of the goddess Cybele.

Locus, March 2005

I liked the whole of the February Realms of Fantasy without any story quite standing out. Liz Williams's "All Fish and Dracula" portrays a naive participant in a Goth Weekend, who witness, without fully understanding, some sinister happenings one Samhain night.

Locus, May 2005

Liz Williams is all over the place this month. Her Asimov's story, "La Gran Muerte", didn't particularly excite me, but I enjoyed stories from the April Realms of Fantasy and the Spring Electric Velocipede. "Blackthorn and Nettles", from RoF, is a fine Welsh-set fantasy, in which a woman falls in love with a smooth young man, but falls afoul of his too-close sister. "Serpent's Tooth", from Electric Velocipede, is a nice traditional SF story about an anthropologist on a planet where the local species is near extinction, and where humans are trying to help the survivors reproduce. He gets involved with a possibly sinister alien (from yet another species) and with the newborn locals – with unexpected results.

Locus, January 2006

Realms of Fantasy closes 2005 with another fine issue. Two regulars contribute the best stories. ... Liz Williams’s “Mortegarde” is distinguished first by a fascinating setting: a series of vastly different worlds like fruit on a world tree. Travel to other worlds is possible but dangerous. Her protagonist is summoned to Mortegarde, a world of wyverns, to present his scientific, rationalist, views – perhaps not to their approval.

From the Introduction to my 2009 Best of the Year volume

And yet there remain stories that draw us in with their exotic settings, such as Liz Williams’s “Spiderhorse” (Realms of Fantasy, August), in which the Norse myths (and Odin’s horse) are viewed from a very original angle.

Locus, January 2014

In Old Mars some authors embrace the pulpish past wholeheartedly ...Also pulpish in overall shape, but ultimately one of the best stories in the book, is “Out of Scarlight”, by Liz Williams, about Zuneida Peace, who began her career as “a seducer of Princes (and occasionally Princesses)” who is now a bounty hunter of sorts, tracking a Princess of the Desert People, who has apparently been kidnapped by a sorcerer … An old rival of hers, Nightwall Dair, is on the track of the same girl, for a different client. Of course there are changes to ring on this familiar setup – Zuneida has a perhaps unfortunate crush on the Princess in question, and both Nightwall Dair and the Princess have slightly untraditional agendas. The traditional pulpish color, and the variation on the traditional plot, are both well done. Really nice stuff.

Locus, December 2018

Gardner Dozois’ final (I presume) original anthology, The Book of Magic, is here, and it lives up to the high standards set by his previous work. The best work includes ... Liz Williams’ “Sungrazer”, an effectively mysterious story of a retired astronomer who is also secretly a magician; and his encounter with a sort of fire spirit, which leads him to negotiating with living stars to save the Earth from a comet.

I also review Liz Williams' novels Snake Agent and Precious Dragon at SF Site.

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