• The Good: Wide variety of imaginative scifi and fantasy tales
  • The Bad: Not all stories of equal quality
  • The Literary: Several re-imaginings or responses to genre classics

From the author of the highly acclaimed Broken Earth trilogy comes a collection of twenty-two science fiction and fantasy short stories full of magic in a modern world of mundane. Several stories were nominated for Hugo and Locus Awards, and the compendium as a whole won a Locus Award for Best Collection.

Reviewing a short story collection is often difficult because of the wide variety of stories, and this is no exception. Some stories are exceptional and resonate strongly; some feel like they were commissioned for a themed short story collection; some feel like an exploration that isn’t finished.

My favorite stories include:

  • The City Born Great, in which a young homeless kid helps New York City move into its next stage of existence. (Nominated for a Hugo Award.)
  • Cuisine Des Memories, where divorcee Harold is brought to a restaurant that claims to be able to recreate any meal in history. Would he prefer the last meal served to Marie Antoinette before her death, or the roast pheasant served to King Edward VIII of England when he announced his intention to marry, or perhaps, something from Harold’s own past? (Nominated for a Locus Award.)
  • On the Banks of the River Lex, in a post-apocalyptic New York, Death and a few other deities wanders a human-free Earth. Who doesn’t love a story about Death?
  • Henosis, in which a well-known author is kidnapped on his way to an award ceremony. It’s a relatively simple punch line in the vein of Logan’s Run, but with the added reminiscence of Ferengi burial practices (for all you Star Trek fans out there).

I also really enjoy

  • The return to the world of the Broken Earth trilogy in Stone Hunger, where an orogene pursues the man who destroyed her city.
  • The slow reveal of a young girls’ choice to stop being so smart so she can fit into the society in which she was raised or to allow herself to be taken by the AI that controls the dystopia outside in Valedictorian.
  • The unexpected narrator in The Storyteller’s Replacement, in which a king hopes to rectify his sexual impotence by hunting down a dragon the heart of a male dragon to eat. Unfortunately, all he can find is a nesting female. (Nominated for a Locus Award.)
  • The simplicity of one-sided conversation of an outsider in New York who sees trains running that don’t exist, and decides to board one in The You Train. I don’t want to promise too much on this one. Nothing really happens. But there’s a lot of space to mull over what it means and how it makes you feel. It sticks with me.

Highly recommended for fans of N.K. Jemisin. I think this collection is a window into her process, including the stories with simplistic morals or unsubtle reveals. While there are some gems in here, the majority of the tales are good, but not great. Still a worthwhile collection for any scifi and fantasy fan.