Edgar Allan Poe was a Boston-born poet, short-story writer and a critic. When his parents died, he was raised by an aunt and uncle. By the age of 18 he published Tamerlane and Other Poems. His stories are vivid, surrealistic, and often highly macabre tales. Published in 1845, The Raven made Poe famous. Other achievements include the invention of the detective genre. Murders in the Rue Morgue is considered to be the first detective story ever published. Few authors manage to evoke such intense feelings in their works. Poe manages to be both dramatic and incredibly creepy in several of his stories. What I enjoy about his work is the dark artistry woven into each story. Over the course of his lie, Poe suffered several setbacks and personal challenges. All of his pain and suffering comes through in his characters, plot elements, themes, and ethics. I am not a huge fane of gothic literature, but Poe remains one of my favorite storytellers because his narratives are so compellingly complex. Though I am always deeply depressed after reading some of his stories. This anthology contains his most famous works and other lesser known stories.
Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works, Random House, 1985, 9780517214008
The science fiction genre continues to evolve and sometimes it is interesting to read some early stories. Some of the early authors correctly predicted modern technology and others grossly missed the mark. And the descriptions of such technologies are hilarious to read. Originally published in 1970, this anthology is considered to be one of the best science fiction collections ever released. All the included stories were voted upon by the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Each of the stories predated the founding of the Nebula Awards. Some of the short stories are excruciatingly hard to read, mainly due to antiquated prose. One of the major flaws with this anthology is the less well-written stories are presented in the front of the book. If you are not a truly committed science fiction fan, it can be difficult to work through this collection. Another major flaw is that there are no author biographies included, which is a downside for more obscure authors who have now fallen out of popularity. The anthology also does not include the literary magazines or original publication date of the stories. Otherwise, this is an excellent anthology and includes contributions from classic science fiction authors.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, Orb Books, 2005, 9780765305374
Noir is an odd genre and in the hands of the wrong author, it can fall fantastically flat. I remember attempting to read The Maltese Falcon and nearly expiring from boredom. So it was with trepidation that I picked up this collection. While I am not overly fond of noir, every now and then I enjoy stretching my reading comfort zone. Ellroy and Penzler have collected 39 tales spanning the years 1910-2007 in order to find the most glittering examples of literary dark noir fiction. Since the anthology spans a hundred years, it is interesting to see the evolution of the genre. Of course, with such a pretentious title, the stories had better live up to the hype. Since I am not well versed in the noir genre, I am not entirely sure if the anthology meets the hype. But the majority of the stories are well written. Unlike other Noir collections, this one contains few private detective stories. Penzler considers the detective genre to be separate from Noir, so PIs are left out in the dark and smoky evening. This compilation contain brief biographies of each author that details their contribution to the genre. Overall, I think this is an interesting collection of short stories and I am glad I plowed through some of the rougher entries.
The Best American Noir of the Century, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, 9780547330778
Originally published in 1950, The Martian Chronicles is a short story collection that details the colonization of Mars. The astronauts are attempting to run away from a troubled and eventually atomically devastated Earth. All the stories follow the resulting conflict between the astronauts and the native Martians. This collection falls somewhere between a set of short stories and an episodic novel. These stories are all loosely connected and only share themes not characters. The Martian Chronicles are weirdly intense and an interesting take on planetary colonization. Also included in this anthology are The Illustrated Man and The Golden Apples of the Sun. Released in 1951, The Illustrated Man is a set of eighteen short stories that details the conflict between technology and the psychology of people. And The Golden Apples of the Sun contain some of Bradbury’s most famous short stories. Bradbury is not one of my favorite science fiction authors. His writing tends to veer a little too much towards technical and renaissance style prose for my taste. However, this collection is full of some classic and genre defining science fiction stories. While some of the stories are a tad difficult to read, I think the anthology is worth the effort.
The Martian Chronicles & Other Works, Sterling Publishing, 2010, 9781435129061
Myths and Legends are like fairytales, every culture possess one form or another. These tales attempt to describe certain human experiences: creation, marriage, childbirth, suffering, death, conquest, adventure, love, insanity, and exploration. Ashley compiles mythology from Africa, Europe, India, Japan, North America, Persia, Russia, The United Kingdom, Ireland, and other countries. What I love about mythology anthologies is seeing how different cultures interpret the same themes. Every culture has a different spin on creation, the beginnings of humanity, Mother Earth, and the struggle between good and evil. Since this is a collection of international myths, several of the stories lose something in translation. Not that the stories are any less enjoyable but the narrative can be clunky. Also, since myths tend to rely on telling over showing, there is little to no characterization. And the repetition of themes can become a tad boring. On the other hand, each story contains some great cultural flair that makes all the retellings unique. I would have preferred it if the anthology had contained some lesser known legends. The majority of the entries were excellent but the North American ones felt out of place. Almost all of the stories are told from a more Western perspective and this slightly detracts from the unique societal outlook. However, this is a good introduction to the myths and legends of the world.
The Giant Book of Myths & Legends, MetroBooks, 2002, 9781586636104
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