The first of the short stories (I refuse to figure out exactly how many words quantifies a short story/novella/novelette/etc [or figure out how to get my Kindle to tell me how many words long a part of a book is] so all stories shorter than “novel” will hereafter be referred to as “short story.” Even if that is technically inaccurate nomenclature. Pthbbt.)* is “Murder in Metachronopolis” – a hardboiled detective-type sci-fi story. And as befits a story about time travel, it’s told out-of order, starting off with part 16 (they are helpfully labeled, although I didn’t actually keep a list to check that all numbers were accounted for, I’ll just assume that they are) but each “plot thread” is woven so expertly that I never felt like I was being jerked around for mere authorial cleverness points. Or the author making up for the fact that the middle of her story is boring and pointless. (Yes, I am still going on about that. The wasted potential makes me sad. I’m sharing!) This one might actually qualify as a novelette, it’s a bit longer than some of the other shorts in the collection; it’s long enough to give the reader a good appreciation for the city and the kind of headaches time-traveling jerks cause in their wake!
“I don’t take cases from Time Wardens, see? All you guys are the same. The murderer turns out to be yourself, or you when you were younger. Or me. Or an alternate version of me, or you who turns out to be your own father fighting yourself for no reason except that is the way it was when the whole thing started. And there’s no beginning and no reason for any of it. Oh, brother, you Time Wardens make me sick.”
The story definitely rewards a second read after you finish the whole book, too – I believe the case of Helen of Troy is actually the story (novelette?) that ends the collection. I also serendipitously figured out how to navigate from one story to the next in the book via the Kindle arrow buttons after being dismayed at the lack of an active-hyperlink Table of Contents, which is an odd oversight in an ebook.
Now, of course, I want to skip to the end and re-read the last story in City, but that would be cheating. I’ll tackle them in order, but not until tomorrow… it’ll give me a good excuse to relax in front of the fishtanks I just cleaned today!
*Nested parenthetical asides in honor of Charles Stross; if a professional author can use them, then I’m indulging myself with them in my amateur blog post. This is how my first drafts tend to come out, anyway – usually I edit my writing-thoughts to avoid using them, thanks to some writing class lost in the mists (heh heh) of time (SWIDT? XD) that taught me that anything you’d stick in parenthesis in your writing ought to be deleted, or worked in properly. So I tend to overuse commas and long complicated sentence structures and dashes instead. Until now. (LOL) I promise to stop doing this and go back to editing myself properly after this!