Thursday, May 26, 2011

CBRIII: Book#28: Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Oh, man. I only got this for the Charlaine Harris Sookie story and the Kelley Armstrong story. This book, it isn't really bad so much as predictable and less enjoyable than other kinds of short story collections. Let me explain.

When you read most short story collections, you may have a theme or you may have a certain style throughout, such as the collections authored by only one person. In the Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner edited collections, you have a theme. The theme of this collection is vampire birthdays. Shut-up.

While the theme isn't repugnant and could lead to some interesting stories if handled correctly, that isn't really the case with these authors. The problem is that most of these authors, with a couple of exceptions, have a series of novels with vampire protagonists. This means that we get characters that have already been fully-formed elsewhere and will not be explained completely to us in this vignette. It also means that there is no real peril for any of the characters and no real changes to be made. It makes it difficult to bond with the characters and leaves no real surprises for endings.

We know that Sookie Stackhouse will not be killed or turned into a vampire for her actions in "Dracula Night". We know that Butcher's wizard Harry Dresden is in no real trouble. This makes for shitty reading with the situations that these characters are in. In a full novel, who knows what can happen? Main characters can be killed or changed. But here? Where most readers won't look for their favorite characters? Mini-adventures that won't be given more than a passing reference in the main series, if that. It's like re-watching Lost, which I am currently doing, and being unable to build up much emotional investment in certain events because I know how it ends.

The other problem with this particular collection is the use of the authors' bread and butter characters. And the authors' lack of explanation for most of them. One story had so many characters referenced from books I'd never read that I couldn't remember who was a vampire and who was a wizard and why they kept referring to these other people I couldn't recall. To use Lost again, it would be like taking someone who had never even heard of the series and making them start on the fourth episode in season three. Here, figure out who is who and what they're talking about! SUPER FUN, ISN'T IT?!?!

However, this isn't to say that there weren't some redeeming stories here. Those were the ones with all new characters or those that didn't rely on unspoken connections to work. On the whole, skip this. You don't need to read any of these that involve characters you like and the good stories aren't worth the rest.

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