I don’t often say this, but I regret reading this book, a collection of short stories by Lindholm (aka Hobb). Not only did I dislike nearly all of them, but many of them were creepy and unpleasant, full of child abuse, animal abuse, preachiness, and despair. In particular, two stories were largely centered around cat corpses. There’s a theme I can do without!

I got the book from the library because I love Lindholm’s Ki and Vandien series, and enjoyed almost all her novels written as Lindholm. (I see cheap used copies of Harpy's Flight
here.) I also liked Hobb’s first two “Assassin” and “Ship” books enough to read most of her other novels, even though the rest ranged from okay to terrible.

But I had forgotten, or traumatically repressed, that of the two Lindholm short stories I’d previously read, one was the charming Ki and Vandien adventure “Bones for Dulath” (not reprinted in this volume, probably because it’s too much fun,) but the other was the awesomely depressing lizard messiah story (which was reprinted, probably because it’s so full of DOOM.) It also contains my new nominee for the ultimate Never befriend a person with problems story.

“Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man” is an exception to the doom parade. It’s a cute urban fantasy romance – a bit too cute for my taste.

“Finis” is a vampire story with a predictable twist ending.

“Drum Machine” is an annoying, preachy sf story about genetically engineered babies, the Horror of Sameness, and how if we eliminate mental illness, we will eliminate creativity. SIGH.

“Cut” is an annoying, preachy sf story in which the price of allowing girls to get abortions without their parents’ permission is that anyone over 15 can now make any bodily alteration without their parents’ permission, but parents can do anything to their children if they’re under 15. The heroine’s grand-daughter is going to voluntarily undergo female genital mutilation, and make her infant daughter do the same. This story was effectively manipulative, but when I’m being manipulated, I’d like it to be little less obvious. The foreword notes that “Cut” isn’t supposed to be an anti-abortion polemic, which is surprising given how exactly it reads as one.

The Inheritance



“A Touch of Lavender” is the one where everything sucks and Earth is descended upon by lizard alien refugees who are covered with slime whose least touch hopelessly addicts humans and then makes them go deaf. The hero’s sole source of happiness is his family of his mom, his mom’s lizard-alien boyfriend, and their half-lizard-alien baby. But the mom, whose greatest joy was music, gets accidentally addicted to the alien’s slime and becomes a brain-damaged and completely deaf junkie, the lizard-alien boyfriend is murdered in a hate crime, and the baby turns out to be the lizard messiah and departs Earth with the rest of the lizard-aliens, leaving the hero to face his life on a devastated Earth, in wretched poverty, loneliness, and despair.

“The Fifth Squashed Cat” is an awesomely depressing story in which the heroine learns the secret of immortality and eternal youth… and that she can’t access it because she is a rationalist for whom magic won’t work, even once she’s so convinced that it will that she grovels by the side of the freeway, desperately sucking on the bones of a squashed cat. EW.

But wait! I saved the most depressing for last! “Strays” is about a middle-class white girl who befriends a horribly abused, half-starved Native American girl who loves cats. The white girl’s mom is so afraid of poverty and abuse contamination that rather than, say, reporting the abuse, she merely gives the abused girl a can of pepper spray, then forbids her daughter to ever associate with her friend again. The abused girl’s cats are all poisoned and her abusive mom’s abusive boyfriend murders her before her ex-friend’s eyes. But it’s okay! She’s resurrected as a cat. W. T. F.

Of the Hobb stories, “Homecoming” is pretty good if you can get over the heroine apparently forgetting that two of her babies died 10 pages ago and never mentioning them again. “Cat’s Meat” has more child and animal abuse, and a “happy ending” undercut by an awesomely depressing tag of "You killed someone to save my life, so I hate you forever."

At that point, I thought, “Why in the world am I still reading?” And stopped.
starlady: Fuck you, it's magic.  (kick ass fantasy)

From: [personal profile] starlady


Clearly something has been lost in the retelling because after the description of "A Touch of Lavender" I started howling like a hyena. Ahhahahahaha, oh god WTF.
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)

From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid


::cuddles her cat protectively::
smw: A woman sits at a typewriter, pages flying, a plug in the back of her awesomely big-curly hair. (Tentacles)

From: [personal profile] smw


Oh, this collection. I acquired it for free and thus felt required to read it (odd psychological quirk -- we all have them). I really, really wish I'd dished up the cash, because I could have stopped a page in and been the happier for it. Both "Cut" and "Drum Machine" were terrible enough that the "solving mental illness takes away creativity!" and "autonomy is bad! Listen to your elders!" messages didn't aggravate me -- they were too pathetic to get riled over.

Though I have to admit, the concept of "The Fifth Squashed Cat" interested me. The execution not so much.
lenora_rose: (Default)

From: [personal profile] lenora_rose


Eek. I remember the Fifth Squashed Cat from an anthology (Though for some reason I remembered it as a Will Shetterley story; I think because he had a different horrible depressing story in the antho's sequel). It was a story I never wanted to read again.

sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)

From: [personal profile] sovay


because she is a rationalist for whom magic won’t work, even once she’s so convinced that it will that she grovels by the side of the freeway, desperately sucking on the bones of a squashed cat.

I read that! Years ago! Thank you so much for making me remember!

From: [identity profile] vom-marlowe.livejournal.com


That is a lot of squashed cats, yo.

I really enjoyed the first of the Assassin novels, but had trouble with later ones and couldn't get into the Ship books.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I forgot to mention that someone attempts (but fails) to squash a cat in "Cat's Meat," which ought to have been titled "Revenge of the Cat."

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From: [identity profile] vom-marlowe.livejournal.com - Date: 2011-12-09 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] tavella.livejournal.com


I liked the first Assassin novel until the end, which annoyed me. I forget the details, but there was something stupid about it and I do hate idiot plotting. I liked but did not love Wizard of the Pigeons and I don't think I've managed to finish anything else I tried by her. There's just a sourness to her work that does not appeal to me.
ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)

From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com


I do tend to agree that "Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man" was a little too cute, not to mention having a somewhat unsatisfying ending in that I felt the main character (I can't even remember if she gets a name aside from "Silver Lady") is a little too accepting of the Fortyish Man just because he's kind of exciting and flatters her, but it is sweet and somehow was one of the first stories that my Eor was all, "Oh, you must read this, I adore this story!" early on in our relationship. Eor for some reason can have a bit more of a sweet tooth even than I. ;)

It's a shame to hear that the rest are not that good. Wasn't it Megan Lindholm who also finished writing "Donnerjack" after Roger Zelazney died? Miserable.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


That was Jane Lindskold, not Megan Lindholm.

I do think many of Lindholm's novels are wonderful and not depressing, which was why I was so disappointed by the short stories. Her novel Wizard of the Pigeons is a darker and better, but still sweet, take on the themes and milieu of "Silver Lady."

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ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)

From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com


Oh, "A Touch of Lavender" - that was somehow memorable, even if only for the despair. I think it must have been fairly well done despair, but it was so long ago that I read it that I can't really be sure. I do remember that one, though I had forgotten the end.

From: [identity profile] innocentsmith.livejournal.com


the price of allowing girls to get abortions without their parents’ permission is that anyone over 15 can now make any bodily alteration without their parents’ permission, but parents can do anything to their children if they’re under 15

...Right, sure. Logical progression there. >_<

This sounds like a compendium of WTF, and upsetting WTF at that. Good call on stopping reading. OTOH the "genre: lizard messiah" tag is making me smile quite a lot.

"Strays" sounds sort of like an infinitely less fun version of that one Saki story where a woman is reincarnated as an otter and proceeds to terrorize her friend's stuffy husband by tracking mud all over his floor and leaving dead fish on the carpet.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer


I am disappointed there aren't more posts with the "genre: lizard messiah" tag.

---L.

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From: [identity profile] anait.livejournal.com


Oh, ick.

Your tags made me giggle. :)

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com


Someday, Rachel, I will write a novel just so I can make the "lizard messiah" tags list of yours.

Just sayin'.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


“Drum Machine” is an annoying, preachy sf story about genetically engineered babies, the Horror of Sameness, and how if we eliminate mental illness, we will eliminate creativity. SIGH.

Didn't she write something online a while back about how she felt psychiatric drugs were overprescribed and blah blah blah? Or am I thinking of someone else? (I thought you posted something about it, but if so I'm missing it.)

I've never read anything by her except her Hobb novels. The Ki and Vandien series sounds good, but I have yet to come across them (I should just buy copies online, I know).

From: [identity profile] nagaina-ryuuoh.livejournal.com


No, that was her. I personally exploded rather wrathfully over that one.

From: [identity profile] isabelknight.livejournal.com


Augh, "Strays"! I read that in some fantasy anthology or another as a teenager. I think it may have actually been one on "Warrior Princesses" or some other ostensibly cheery theme that promised triumph for valorous young ladies - and the book ended with "Strays", where all valor gets you is a house full of dead pets and a helping of murder for yourself. And maybe a posthumous revenge as an angry ghost-cat, if your best friend wasn't just hallucinating from the trauma of witnessing your murder.

And apparently the author habitually writes stuff EVEN MORE depressing? Sweet baby lizard, no!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


My God! That's like all the parents who took their kids to see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,, having been misled by the advertising which suggested a heartwarming tale of age-appropriate friendship, and were hit by surprise!Holocaust. Okay, only not quite as bad as that.

Actually, nothing in the book is more depressing than "Strays." Not even the "my mom is a brain-damaged slime junkie and my sister is the lizard messiah" story.

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From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


As soon as you said you'd read a collection of icky stories by Megan Lindholm I wondered if "Cut" was in it. I vaguely remember that story being up for a Nebula, and being utterly horrified by this. I had completely forgotten the anti-abortion-polemic aspect; mostly I remember being appalled by the worldbuilding. It's suggested in the story that FGM was an implication of the law no one had thought about beforehand.

I live in Minneapolis, which has the largest population of Somali immigrants in the U.S. When this group first started arriving, I believe there was a child protection case where a family took a child back to Africa and had it done; on their return to the U.S., the child was taken away and the parents were charged with abuse. Since then, so far as I can tell (and I have a RL friend who is a pediatrician and treats a lot of Somali children; she would not talk about her affection and respect for her Somali parents if they were doing this to their daughters) the Somalis coming in the U.S. simply accepted that if they wanted to live in the U.S., they were going to have to discard that part of their culture. Period.

Anyway. This is where I am coming from, geographically and culturally, and I looked at that basic premise -- no one looked at this law and said, "are you fucking kidding me? have you ever heard of female genital mutilation? NOT OKAY" -- and rolled my eyes. Adult women embracing FGM as some sort of extreme bodily modification thing? Ew, but OK, I can buy it. Senators not seizing on the chance to bash Muslims? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


For the story to have worked the way the foreword said it was supposed to work - not as an anti-abortion/anti-FGM polemic, but as an exploration of the extent to which we should or should not be able to alter our bodies - it should not have premised the entire thing on two hot-button current political issues.

It could have never mentioned abortion or FGM, but been, say, about a mother whose daughter has a compulsion to remove her own limbs, in a world where anything you do to your own body is legal. Then it still would have been gross, but been a lot less smug.

As it was, it read exactly as if the point was, "So, you pro-choicers think a woman should be able to do whatever she wants with her own body, huh? Well, how would you feel if what she wanted to do was FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION? And how about if she also wanted to GENITALLY MUTILATE her infant daughter? Not so sure now, are you?"

As you say, too, the entire premise was so unlikely. Laws emerge out of real cultural concerns, not as "spherical cow" thought experiments. Allowing FGM comes out of a specific environment; so does allowing abortion. Just because both involve physical alterations doesn't make a culture likely to see them as morally and legally identical.

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From: [identity profile] qian.livejournal.com


I was wondering about that! Does she just really dislike cats, or does she absolutely love them and so the most depressing thing she can think of is cat death/injury?

From: [identity profile] katie-m.livejournal.com


Wait wait wait. How did the mother have a half alien lizard baby without touching the boyfriend's addictive deafness-inducing slime?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


My bad, I messed up the chronology:

1. Accidental sliming.

2. Alien baby.

Exposure to alien slime enabled the mom to conceive a parthenogenic half-alien lizard messiah baby. I don't think there was any actual sex involved.

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From: [identity profile] raeraesama.livejournal.com


Ah, man. She's one of those authors whose characters I can't really care enough about to care where the story goes, with the sole exception of the Fool in the Assassin series. I wanted to like her books, but I can't.

And wow, that anthology sounds like...something else.
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