Space is Just a Starry Night
By Tanith Lee
Paperback, 239 pages
2013, Aqueduct Press
A short story collection (from my queen) containing a prison planet that uses memories to manipulate its occupants, a woman released from deep freeze after over a century, a man’s relationship with his ship and a planet, a woman’s drastic transformation under the rays of the sun and more.
Shorts collections can be hit or miss whether the stories are from one or multiple authors. This is a solid sci-fi collection with a range of futuristic worlds and a few really stellar stories.
The collection starts off with a dedication to Tanith’s husband that made me smile:
To my Husband and Angel, John Kaiine.
From whom great inspiration I gaiine;
And whose name is such fun,
Since almost no one
Can pronounce it – until we explaiine.
I think it’s creative and adorable and I’m happy to know that I’ve always pronounced it correctly.
Ok, on to the stories. For the first time, I think, I’ve got a little something to say about the plot of each story and my thoughts.
The Beautiful Biting Machine – A Tanith twist on vampirism in a technologically advanced future. It’s more than the pervy tale that it appears! This was an excellent choice for an opener.
Moon Wolf – Werewolves on the moon? Honestly, this story was too vague for me to comprehend, though atmospheric.
Felixity – Held prisoner by her husband, a woman finds strength in watching a version of herself revealed to her through a mirror. This was middle of the road for me – a little cliché, as there’s a dumpy to frumpy transformation. The end was the best part, though very literal.
The Thaw – A woman finds herself with a houseguest who happens to be a relative of hers who was frozen for over 200 years. She must help her aunt (?) acclimate to an unfamiliar world but soon finds the woman has some disturbing tendencies. This story was crazy and creepy and I loved it. The protagonist also coins the term nightcarlas instead of nightmares and it was perfect.
You Are My Sunshine – Another transformation story, but this one has ramifications of epic proportions. I really enjoyed this one.
With a Flaming Sword – An alien/cavewoman take on Adam and Eve. This was too religious for me and while, as usual, I thought the writing was quality, I didn’t enjoy the plot or characters.
Black Fire – Another biblical alien invasion, though with some female empowerment…sort of. It was better than Flaming Sword, but not fabulous.
Written in Water – My notes say: what happens when aliens arrive after a plague to the last woman on earth. What even does that mean? I don’t know. I don’t remember this one. Womp.
Tonight I Can Sleep Quietly – Ex-lovers are out of prison and in different bodies and meet in a coffee shop. This one was too introspective for me. But I wanted to know more about the character’s past and the world.
Stalking the Leopard – A jaded rich girl “falls in love with” a mysterious assassin. I liked this one. The world was rich and the ending was unexpected.
Dead Yellow – what happens when the color yellow disappears from the face of the earth. I’ve never read about a plague that targets a color and it was interesting to read about how something seemingly harmless can affect life.
By Crystal Light Beneath One Star – A prison that shows you past memories to torture you. I really wasn’t interested in this one.
A Day in the Skin (or, the century we were out of them) – After a tragic accident, workers in a mining colony find themselves trapped in a sort of limbo while the bodies of the survivors are loaned out for short periods of time. Essentially you get x number of days in a body every x number of days. But you never get to go back into your own body. It’s complex but understandable. I loved this one and I think it should have ended the collection because it was so strong. It was giving me Altered Carbon vibes except this came first!
Within the Ghost – A man is stranded on his ship after the planet he was working on is destroyed. The ship finds a mysterious signal from a planet with no signs of life and from there the three build a relationship. This one was odd…but intriguing.
If you like sci-fi shorts this is a collection worth checking out, especially if you tend to be more of a deep thinker than I am. Some of the stories that confused or bored me might be your standouts!