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2014 Stories 197 - 203

I fell way behind again on updating this community/list. I'm not sure too many people even notice anymore, but this is for myself as much as anyone else, so I'm going to keep updating as time allows.  This entry brings me past 200 stories cataloged for the year, but I'm actually a good 40 stories farther along.

This batch comes from Meteor House's The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer, Volume 4: Voyages to Stranger Days. As with earlier editions, Worlds of PJF4 is a collection of previously-unreprinted Farmer essays and stories mixed with essays about the author and his works and new fiction based on his characters and concepts.  Since this is a short story community, I'm leaving off of this list portions of the book that are purely essay/reflection/etc., and commenting primarily on the actual short stories and novellas, with one small exception.

197. SAMDROO AND THE GRASSMAN by Martin Gately     Gately takes "Samdroo the Tailor Who Turned Sailor," a legend mentioned several times in Farmer's SF novel The Green Odyssey, and expounds upon it. The narrator of the framing device is the descendent of the hapless, less than helpful, bard who accompanies Samdroo on his first (and presumably many further) adventures in the Great Grass Sea.  Gately's prose is tight while still capturing that familiar tone of high fantasy tales told by bards, and balances the necessary dark "will our hero survive" aspects with a sense of hopefulness that the adventure will never end. I'd welcome more Samdroo stories by Gately, if Meteor House were to commission them.

198. THE WHITENESS OF THE WHALE by Danny Adams   This is a sequel to one of my favorite Farmer SF novels: The Wind Whales of Ishmael. It's a worthy follow-up in that it attempts (and I think succeeds) in explicating something Farmer left implied: just what was up with Queequeg's coffin and the glowing runes engraved on it, that it transported a near-dead Ishmael so far into the future?  And just because the coffin's been missing for years, is Ishmael's connection to it still intact?  I will admit that there were a few points in the story where I got lost in the descriptiveness of Adams' writing and had to go back and re-orient myself ... but that might have been intentional on the author's part, to have the reader feel what Ishmael is feeling.

199. ITE, MISSA EST by Paul Spiteri  Farmer's Father John Carmody is a thief turned priest, the focus of several short stories. Spiteri's story picks up after Farmer's final tale featuring the character and feels like a very logical continuation.  Spiteri plunks the now BIshop Carmody down on a new alien world with one global religion and planetary harmony -- or so it seems. Carmody and his ambassadorial team dig deeper and the story takes on a more conspiratorial tone. At the heart of the story, though, is the same thing at the heart of all of the Carmody stories: the character's struggle with his own demons as reflected by what's going on around him. This is a really solid story throughout.

200. ANTLERS OF FLESH by Edward C. Lisic   I've yet to read Farmer's novel Flesh, but I don't think reading this prequel spoils anything.  Of all the stories in this volume, Lisic's comes the closest to imitating Farmer's penchant for mixing sexuality with science fiction, and he pulls it off pretty well. The story isn't porn, but the sexual motivations of the main characters are not sidelined, either. And I now want to move the Titan re-issue of Flesh up the To Be Read list to see how this story dovetails with the novel.

201. THE GODDESS EQUATION by Christopher Paul Carey   One of the things that Carey (and fellow hand-chosen torch-bearer Win Scott Eckert) does so well is filling in the niches/gaps in Farmer's work -- not superceding their mentor but figuring out why he had characters do what they do and expounding upon it. In this story, Carey performs some neat retroactive continuity, identifying several time- and terminology-related "errors" in Farmer's various John Carmody and Detective Raspold stories and crafting a logical, story-oriented explanation for them. Raspold is the main character, and Carey wonderfully evokes another thing Farmer was so good at: the blending on genres. There's a high-tech noir feel about this one that I really enjoyed.

202.  A CARMODY-RASPOLD CHRONOLOGY by Christopher Paul Carey  The only piece of non-fiction I'm including from the book is Chris Carey's explanation of what led him to write the preceding story, accompanied by a timeline incorporating not just the Carmody and Raspold tales but other short stories Farmer set in the same time period.  A very nice piece of comparative research and a great look at the world-building of Farmer and of Carey.

203. MOTH AND RUST by Philip Jose Farmer  I've been hearing about this story, Farmer's sequel-of-sorts to his novel The Lovers, for ages (along with the prequel, "Rastignac the Devil").  I haven't read The Lovers or "Rastignac" (although I finally own a copy of the former), but I don't think either is particularly spoiled by reading this connected story (and in fact, as with the Gately and Adams stories above, it makes me want to move the novel further up my To Be Read list).  Farmer blends indictment of repressive totalitarian regimes (in this case, a religious one), societal- and individual-paranoia, and spy thrillers with classic SF tropes (alien biology that captivates humans, for one) for a novella that is very hard to put down.  The main characters of Dr. Leif Bark and Halla Dannto are very well-drawn, and even the large supporting cast are intriguing.  I don't want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling some interesting twists in where the story goes.


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