Hello Humans! I haven’t typically gravitated towards short story collections in the past – I have a real love for getting my teeth stuck into a longer format and really exploring themes and characters in a way that short stories don’t – because they’re not designed to do that. But Titan books reached out with the opportunity to read and review Escape Pod – which is a collection of short stories celebrating the 20th birthday of the podcast of the same name and I thought that this would be a great way of expanding my scifi reading and finding out about some new authors (while also getting excited about short fiction by the authors I had heard of.
Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of cutting-edge science fiction from the hit podcast, Escape Pod. Featuring new and classic stories from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ursula Vernon and more.Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)
From editors Mur Laffterty and S.B. Divya comes the science fiction collection of the year, bringing together bestselling authors in celebration of the publishing phenomenon that is, Escape Pod.
I find short story collections tricky to review because there are always going to be hits and misses. In this case I would say there were far more hits – but there were a few stories that weren’t for me.
One thing I will mention right at the start of this review is that the collection opens with two stories which feature childbirth in a prominent way. While story two (T. Kingfisher’s Report of Dr Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit5) is much more humerous than the opening story (Kameron Hurley’s Citizens of Elsewhen) both feature women giving birth in rather difficult circumstances which I suspect some may find difficult to read. While I can see the metaphorical benefits of starting a collection with a story about birth, personally I might have preferred a different story to kick things off, or at least a content warning or two.
That’s probably my biggest general criticism of the collection – other than that I just thought it was great! I don’t know how helpful it would be to go through each story blow by blow so instead I thought I’d highlight a few of my favourites.
Sarah Gailey (They/Them) – Tiger Lawyer Gets it Right
In a time where I feel like we’d all like to just stop being civil and start busting things up to get people to show an ounce of compassion, this story did not go where I thought it was going to but to be honest I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it.
John Scalzi (He/Him) – Alien Animal Encounters
This story is told as a series of interviews kind of ‘woman on the street’ style. What I liked most about this is that it 1000% captured how awful and ridiculous humanity would be if we did in fact have alien animals/species. Fully ludicrous.
Mary Robinette Kowal (She/Her) – Jaiden’s Weaver
The first story in this collection to make Judith cry and OF COURSE it featured a teddy bear spider (which is neither a teddy bear nor a spider but that’s what it’s called). Ooof this one hurt my heart a little bit, and may have increased my desire for a dog tenfold.
Tina Connolly (She/Her) – Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends
The other story that made me cry, and this time it’s spaceship lesbians putting on a production of The Wizard of Oz I mean could you push any more of my ‘I will read this’ buttons? As a theatre kid I found this cut to my core.
N K Jemisin (She/Her) – Give me Cornbread or Give me Death
Jemisin’s contribution was what made me request this book in the first place and to close with her gorgeous take on futuristic dragons was a great move by the editors. If you’ve read any Jemisin before I’ll just say this is as good as you are expecting it to be. It’s one of several stories in the collection that shines a light on current issues but this one did so in a way that felt quite hopeful and triumphant.
Those are just my favourites but I really do think there is something for everyone in this collection. I probably ought to mention that I haven’t listened to Escape Pod before and I’m not a huge podcast listener – but I might have to tune into this one on occasion if this is a testament to the quality content they are putting out.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I was sent a free copy of this book by the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Escape Pod publishes October 20th
What say you? Do you have any other short story recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!