Monday, October 27, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Cornstalk Gypsies: The Iowa Flood Relief Anthology edited by J. K. Richard

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Proceeds of this magazine goes to relief efforts for Iowa and that pretty much sums up the theme of this publication as several of the stories touch upon Iowa (although not necessarily the disaster). As a reader, the question I want to ask is that aside from donating to a charitable cause, are the stories featured any good?

There are eight stories all in all and I'll be frank: most of them are simply mediocre. For example, the opening story, "Crow's Changeling" by Sarah Prineas, could have dedicated more scenes in establishing the characterization of the protagonist's daughter. While it's a decent story as is, it lacks the emotional tug or believability that could have elevated it to something much, much more. Other stories, such as "Gossamer and Viridian: The Trolls at the Gate" by Dr. Catherine Schaff-Stump, isn't really faulty although it feels like the story ended prematurely.

Having said that, Cornstalk Gypsies isn't without its own gems. The most striking story is "Slightly Better than Average" by Tyson Chaney. Imagine watching a baseball game except it's all captured in prose. That's not an easy feat but Chaney manages to hook you through an entire game, sprinkling characterization and drama as needed while being adept at describing all the action. It reminds me of the best aspect of sports manga adapted for fiction.

Another noteworthy piece is "This is Baltimir" by Ann M. Nguyen although it's flash fiction and flash fiction for me is difficult to be memorable. "This is Baltimir" is an interesting concept story and quite good in execution but it's not strong enough to be one of those rare few flash stories that I'll remember by the end of the year.

Overall, as much as I want to praise Cornstalk Gypsies, I really can't. I was really impressed with Chaney's story but the rest are ho-hum. You can probably justify this purchase as a donation to a charitable cause in which you get some stories as a bonus.

1 comment:

JKRichard said...

Charles,
Thank you for taking the time out to read and review the first relief anthology. Tyson's short is what initially forced me away from sticking with a solid SFF anthology. The conversations at the pitcher's mound is what really made this story a home run with me. Thanks again for the review!
-Jeff Richard