Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Short fiction from Elizabeth Bear, recipient of the “John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.” Includes her Hugo- and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “Tideline” and Hugo-winning novelette, “Shoggoths in Bloom,” as well as an original, never-published story. A World Fantasy, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick nominee, Bear is one of speculative fiction’s most acclaimed, respected, and prolific authors.
Thoughts: Short story collections vary in their quality. That’s pretty much a given, an acceptance that just about everyone has when they start reading. Some will be better than others, some you may want to skip to get to better things ahead, others are so dull they may tempt you to put the collection down entirely.
This wasn’t the case with Shoggoths in Bloom.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that all the stories in here are written by Elizabeth Bear and aren’t a collection from multiple different authors with multiple different styles. That helped immensely. True, there still were a couple of stories in here that interested me less than others, but I mean that very literally. 2. 2 stories out of 20. And there were far more that were awesome enough to make up for a couple of duller moments.
Bear’s range is evident in this collection, as she presents futuristic sci-fi, historical speculation, straight-up fantasy, all of the stories thought-provoking and all highly creative. From The Something-Dreaming Game that deals with kids and auto-erotic asphyxiation (and the admission that even in kids it can be erotic) to Dolly and its exploration of whether emerging sentience in machines means they can be criminally tried, to stories that defy categorization but still make you go, “Whoa!” like Annie Webber, Bear takes readers on a ride that will stretch minds and imaginations alike in ways that make me eager to read more of her work.
This was my introduction to her writing, and I’m not sure I could have asked for a better one. This was a light buffet instead of a feast, getting to sample things in small amounts rather than diving right in, with less pressure to enjoy than if I’d just launched myself into a full novel. Not that a novel would be a bad thing. I discover many amazing authors that way, obviously. But sometimes one finds themself in the mood for lighter fare, and this catered to my appetite and made me hungry for more.
So whether you’re a fan of Bear’s work and have been for years, or else you’re just curious to try something new, this is a book you ought to be reading. I can’t recommend this enough. Rarely does it happen that I rate a collection so highly. Rarely am I ever so satisfied with a short story collection. Shoggoths in Bloom, I think, will end up being the standard by which all other collections are judged.
(Book provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)