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Mash Up by Gardner Dozois

Mash Up

by Gardner Dozois

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This is a solid little collection of short stories based on the first lines of famous novels and plays (and also the Bible and the Declaration), but nothing really wowed me.

The stand outs for me were:

The Evening Line - This was like reading a cartoon about gangsters from the 20s (50s?) who also employ wizards and zombies and live in the modern day. It was a lot of fun and I especially loved that every character had a nickname, like, Loose Lips Louis, Almost Blonde Annie, and Snake-Hips Levine. It uses the first line from Pride and Prejudice, so naturally, it's my favorite.

The Big Whale - Ishmael is a detective in this one and it seems as though his tales are what inspired Melville to write the book in the first place. Billy Budd is a character (I know that's another Melville novel) and Nathaniel Hawthorn gets his head shrunk, lol. The only issue I had was wondering why Queequeg only spoke in vaguely lyrical nonsense, like "whop bob a loo bop." Not sure if that's a reference or...a reason to not write another language?

Muse of Fire - This is a more literal take on a first line and nicely blends science and magic. I was loving the firebabe and especially how the ending played out. It's my first experience with Scalzi's writing.

I didn't hate any of the stories, even if I don't feel like raving about any of them. If the premise interests you, I'd say this is worth picking up. ( )
  MillieHennessy | Aug 9, 2017 |
The theme of this science fiction and fantasy anthology sounds a bit silly; each story begins with the first line of an existing, usually famous work, chosen by the story's author. [[Allen M. Steele]]'s "The Big Whale" starts out "Call me Ishmael," for example. The better stories generally don't follow from their initial lines in any straightforward way, thus rising above the gimmick.

The first is [[Robert Charles Wilson]]'s "Fireborn." The story draws inspiration from [[Carl Sandburg]]'s [Rootabaga Stories] to tell a leisurely tale of a future divided between the high-tech fireborn, humans who live for centuries before being (apparently) uploaded, and the relatively poor, who live at about a 19th century level. Two young mortals fall in with a troup of fireborn who project mile-high images of themselves while flying above the countryside, competing in artistic "skydances." The young people discover that the distance between human kinds is not so great as they had thought. Wilson's skill at setting believably human characters in futuristic settings makes this the best of the stories here, I think.

"No Decent Patrimony" by [[Elizabeth Bear]] ("My father is deceased," from [Edward the Second] by [[Christopher Marlowe]]) channels millennial-generation frustration with old people. What happens to society when the very rich can live indefinitely long lives? What opportunities arise when one of these plutocrats dies?

"Begone," by [[Daryl Gregory]] ("Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show," Dickens, [David Copperfield], but you knew that) gives us a protagonist who, eerily, is truly not the hero of his own life.

"The Lady Astronaut of Mars," by [[Mary Robinette Kowal]] ("Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife," [The Wizard of Oz]) won the 2014 Hugo Award for best novelette. Having made tough life choices throughout her spacefaring career, the first woman to fly to Mars must make yet another, as a last mission beckons. Seems to me the protagonist's work/life conflict might have been more sharply felt than this story manages, fine though it is.

"Declaration..." by [[James Patrick Kelly]] starts with the first words of the US Declaration of Independence. If one needs the virtual world badly enough, might declaring independence from the real world be a good idea?

Most of the remaining stories are worth reading, as the Dozois name implies. A solid, but not exceptional anthology. ( )
1 vote dukedom_enough | Aug 25, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 178565103X, Paperback)

Stories Inspired by Famous First Lines

Pride and Prejudice meets Macbeth by way of The Wizard of Oz and a dollop of the speculative, in this entertaining anthology where authors get inspiration for short stories from the first lines of famous works of literature. Edited by respected anthologist Gardner Dozois, the collection features Mary Robinette Kowal’s Hugo Award-winning story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 16 Jun 2016 16:12:07 -0400)

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