It’s personal because my friend Michele Tracy Berger has a story in the UNCOMMON ORIGINS anthology (cover design by Rebecca Poole, all rights reside with current holder) and asked me to review an advance copy. I always feel nervous when anyone I know asks me for a review (OMG, what if it sucks? What will I say), but happily I liked the book, and Michele’s story in particular.
The premise of the anthology is stories about “moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic,” which translates in practice as the beginnings of new species or lifeforms in strange circumstances (at least that’s how I interpret it): colonizing alien worlds, the result of mad-science experiments, a feral child raised by beavers, and a woman resisting her destiny to be mother of a new, superior race. I’m not sure the stories included really fit a common theme, but most of them are good which is more important.
Michele’s “The Curl of Emma Jean” was my favorite. A self-destructive woman has finally cleaned up her act enough to ask her older sister for her inheritance. The sister, however, doesn’t think her sister’s really redeemed herself and has some questions about how she became a single mother … the emotional conflict dominates the story, and Michele does a great job handling it.
Deanne Charlton’s “Cultural Gleanings” has a woman wake up one morning speaking (and writing) nothing but Danish. It’s a sitcom premise (literally, Bewitched once did something similar) but Charlton makes it charming and funny. Easily the second best.
Sacha Hope’s “Glass Heart” has a scientist struggling to save his dying wife in Victorian England. I didn’t quite like the ending, but the grief-stricken bulk of the story works well.
Jonathan Cromack’s “The Terrible Discovery of Professor Charles Cooper” is a deliberately old-school story in which a researcher in the 1800s stumbles onto an abandoned laboratory out in the boonies … but not completely abandoned, of course. I liked that one too.
Inevitably there were a couple of stories that I wasn’t into, but overall the quality was good. Like Eldritch Embraces this isn’t a book I’d normally have picked up, but I enjoyed reading it, and I can sincerely recommend it (Amazon link here).