Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Nothing about Us Without Us: Developing Innovative Technologies For, By, and with Disabled Persons by David Werner

Nothing about Us Without Us: Developing Innovative Technologies For, By, and with Disabled PersonsNothing about Us Without Us: Developing Innovative Technologies For, By, and with Disabled Persons by David Werner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my search for books about people with disabilities, I came across this, which focuses on physical disabilities. I work with individuals who have intellectual disabilities, but I've heard the phrase this book is named after. I found this guide to have a lot of helpful things to say about the attitudes and approaches to disabilities, and a lot of insight into how different they are in other settings.

Nothing About Us Without Us is about a program in Mexico called PROJIMO, where assistive devices are made for people with physical disabilities. It discusses the various barriers to the use of devices for many of the people they serve, and how they address those issues. The devices are fitted carefully, both to make sure they're doing what they should, and to make sure they'll function in people's everyday lives. The author points out several times that refusal to use a device has many other reasons, other than that the person is simply being stubborn or proud, and addressing the real reason often leads to an improvement in the person's life.

Another lesson learned within the text is of the strength-based approach, where a rehabilitation worker focuses on what a person can do, rather than on the disability. Most of the workers who make items in the PROJIMO workshop are, themselves, disabled, which leads them to insight about why a tool may not be working as well as those who don't use it may want it to. It also helps the people being fitted for devices gain confidence, seeing others like them able to lead full and rich lives thanks to their innovations.

The last section of the book discusses how a disabled child's peers might help that child learn and grow and manage the disability. It discusses the home for young women with intellectual disabilities being tapped to provide daycare services for a severely understaffed state-run home for children with physical disabilities. It shows how young people often bond during their time at PROJIMO, and both benefit from their partnership. It gives an example of a young man feeling needed for the first time in his life because he has the strength to push people's wheelchairs. And it discusses children with no disabilities delightedly playing with their friends to help teach them games that will straighten their limbs or add muscle where they need it.

The book's terminology is sometimes outdated, and it doesn't consistently use people-first phrasing ("a person with a disability" as opposed to "a disabled person"). Some of the words chosen in the text may offend.

Overall, though, I found this an insightful guide into why First World solutions don't work in all settings, and of the unique problems with disabilities facing certain communities. After reading this book, I would strongly advocate that organizations who wish to help people in other settings with disabilities empower their communities to help, instead of stepping in to throw solutions at a problem they may not fully understand.


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Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last DragonslayerThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider myself a fan of Jasper Fforde's. I've now read everything he's published in the US, and I've enjoyed rather a lot of it. I like his weird worlds, his twists on reality that are almost plausible, and I like his sense of humor. This being a whole new series, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wound up liking it, though, and plan to read more.

The Last Dragonslayer is about Jennifer Strange, who's (almost) 16 and is a foundling in a world where magic exists. She runs an agency of magic users in the absence of the manager, who vanished in a magical accident. Her replacement, Tiger Prawns, arrives, and through his eyes we learn of the odd world Jennifer lives in, where there's one surviving dragon and magic has been steadily dwindling for years. Then, all of the world's precogs (seers and psychics, basically) have a vision of the world's last dragon dying, and millions of people converge on the dragon's territory hoping to grab a piece of land when the barrier keeping people out drops.

Jennifer is confused for two-thirds of the book, and, because the book is in first-person, that means the reader is, too. She pieces together the puzzle slowly, but all isn't revealed until the very last chapter. The action of the last third makes up for a lot of the confusion of the earlier sections.

I wondered, for most of the book, why the protagonist was female. She has a lot of traditionally masculine traits, and romance never comes into the equation. It would be a spoiler to say why I felt this choice was a masterful one, in the end.

Jennifer is a flawed hero. She takes on too much, says the wrong things at the wrong time, and often trusts the wrong people. She muddles through a lot of the plot, and she lets her anger get the better of her judgment more than once. She also has agency, sensitivity, and a strong sense of who she is.

This book has a lot less of the quirky humor I've come to enjoy in Jasper Fforde's books. There were some jabs here and there, but the book's tone is mostly serious.

It also lacks a lot of the YA trappings, though it is a YA book. There's no bad language or sex. But then, I don't recall a lot in Fforde's other novels. The biggest thing that marks this as YA is the age of the protagonist.

I listened to this book on audio. For the most part, Elizabeth Jasicki's narration was good and clear, and she sounded like a teenage girl. But, narrating dialogue, she often drawled, whispered, or did some combination of the two that quickly became grating. If she narrates the next books, I do hope she finds a better way of narrating dialogue.


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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb


Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to try out Calico's Dares with this book. Once again, I'm left wondering what's wrong with me, that I dislike a book other people are gushing with praise over.

Assassin's Apprentice follows a Prince's bastard (through first-person perspective, no less) through his first decade or so of life in a fantasy world. Magic is a talent that mostly royalty and the upper classes possess. If the lower classes have it, it's shameful and something to be avoided or feared.

Fitz, as the narrative calls him (we learn about halfway through that his full name is FitzChivalry Farseer) comes to the king's keep when he's six. He doesn't remember his life before then. He's handed over to the care of his supposed father's servant and carer of horses, hounds, and hawks, Burrich. Though the resemblance between Fitz and Prince Chivalry is unmistakable, no one dares legitimize it. And Fitz grows up, learns to read and to poison people, tries to learn magic and fails, makes friends and loses them, and deals with political machinations.

The world is extremely well-developed. I got the feeling there's a lot more going on in the world than in Fitz's small corner of it. The fantasy elements weren't merely plugged in to serve as fantasy backdrop. It really felt like an organic world that could've evolved in tandem with its magical elements.

Unfortunately, very little is left to implication or hints in the worldbuilding. Fitz's scope of knowledge is too grand, and he crams that all into his story. He's often privy to conversations that make no sense to him, but that he recounts word for word, nonetheless. They turn out to have strong portents later, or they serve to fill in information he doesn't know, but it dragged the story down. I could've done with a lot more summarizing and glossing over.

The book is very light on the action. There are precisely two events with any narrative tension in them, and, for the first, I couldn't understand what the big hurry was, or what he was supposed to do when he got there. It serves to later help him make it home safely from some silly test, but, other than that, I was mystified as to its inclusion.

Had the majority of the book been taken up by the journey to the mountains, I think I would've enjoyed it a lot more. I liked the society we found there, especially the royal family, and I felt like the book finally came alive then. But, that was a small portion of the overall story.

Mostly, this book felt like it was building up to the rest of the story. I do understand that this is the first book in a trilogy, but it failed to draw me in to the rest of the story. It felt too much like we were being held back just so we wouldn't get to the interesting part yet that it sucked all the tension out. I wanted to be done with reading this book, and not because I cared what happened.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Paul Boehmer. He also narrated The Way of Shadows, another book about a fantasy assassin I didn't much care for, which may have colored my perception of this book. I had no complaints about his reading, though his pace often felt plodding. I couldn't tell you if that was because of the narrative or if he was reading too slowly.


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Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Sweet Poison Wine (InCryptid #0.5) by Seanan McGuire.


Sweet Poison Wine (Incryptid, #0.5)Sweet Poison Wine by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another InCryptid prequel tale, the fifth in Frances (Brown) and Jonathan Healy's interesting life together. As with three of the previous stories, this is available for download free on the the author's website.

In this installment, Fran and Jonathan are happily married, and spending their honeymoon in Chicago. Because this is a world steeped in cryptid worldbuilding, though, leaving Jonathan's hometown doesn't mean there are no cryptids. The mice only put in a short appearance, but they're there in spirit. Jonathan and Fran's hotel is run by lesser gorgons, and they rescue a man from hungry freshwater sea hags. They're drawn into moonshine and liquor smuggling circles, and, as with all good trials, grow closer and learn things about one another.

As with previous installments, I felt like I was missing out on something, not having read "Flower of Arizona" in Westward Weird, which I plan to remedy as soon as my TBR pile will let me. But the entire story is there, and this is the most dynamic and interesting of the installments. It had the most opportunities for banter, and I felt like this best highlighted the relationship between the newlywed Healys.

One needn't have read the previous InCryptid books for this to make sense. It may save you the heartbreak, actually, of knowing their eventual fate. These stories are a lovely way to remember these characters.

Seanan McGuire has written on her blog that she'll write more InCryptid short stories, which is delightful news. I so enjoy these glimpses into the Price/Healy family past.


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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Married in Green (InCryptid #0.4) by Seanan McGuire


Married in Green (InCryptid, #0.4)Married in Green by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth InCryptid short story, available for free on the author's website. (The first is part of the Westward Weird anthology, and therefore unavailable.) The stories cover the courtship of Frances Brown and Jonathan Healy, the great-grandparents of the current generation of Price children, whose story is told in the InCryptid books. (So far, that comprises Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, but there are more on the way.)

This is about Jonathan and Fran's wedding. Fran is very pregnant, and Jonathan has invited her circus family to attend and provide the facility in which they'll be married. But Fran's friend reads her cards, spelling a short life ahead if Fran goes ahead with it.

There's little question about whether she'll marry Jonathan. She's already made up her mind in "No Place Like Home," and any InCryptid reader knows what happens to these two. Still, it's fun to get a closer look at these characters and what went through their minds in their day-to-day living. And any excuse for the mice to celebrate and meet another outsider is a good one.

I'm glad these are available to read. I look forward to more.


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Review: Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women by Nancy Madore


Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories For WomenEnchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories For Women by Nancy Madore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a collection of fairy tales with an erotic spin. The author states in the foreword that she deliberately framed them as common female fantasies, which sets it apart somewhat from other such collections. Overall, it has hits and misses, and is ultimately repetitive and forgettable.

"Beauty and the Beast" posits that Beauty prefers the Beast to his human form, because the Beast is more enthusiastic and well-hung. (It also contains the cringe-worthy, "It's not going to fit!" nonsense.)

"Bluebeard" has a room full of S&M delights, and the wife is punished for her curiosity, but not with her life. The BDSM is actually rather tame.

"Cat and Mouse" has the two protagonists competing in a series of contests, with the final stakes being that Mouse has to marry Cat if she begs him to have sex with her. Many other readers have singled this out as their favorite, but I was rolling my eyes too hard to enjoy it.

"Cinderella" catches up with the princess after she's married, and the fairy godmother has given her magical sneakers that motivate her to pursue what she wants instead of sitting passively by.

"East of the Sun and West of the Moon" seemed the most seamless of the tales; I couldn't remember why the hero of the story had to work so hard to hide himself, if he wasn't sleeping with the heroine. The premise of her working her way through a room of 100 suitors to find her true love was an intriguing one, too.

I was glad "Goldilocks and the Three Barons" changed the species of the homeowners Goldilocks breaks in on, and the story just begged for another too hard/too soft/just right line. It was a creative take.

"Mirror on the Wall" is the first of two Snow White adaptations, this one with the premise there's a spell on the land that makes only artificial beauty seem attractive. Unfortunately, there's a level of detachment in the story that made it difficult to connect to the characters.

"Mrs. Fox" is about a pair of wives who plot to trick their husbands and swap for one night, and they wind up valuing their own husbands all the more for it (though they also have fun).

"Snow White in the Woods" is the second Snow White tale, and this one has the seven dwarfs transformed into princes with a kiss. Snow White can't choose between them, so they don't make her choose.

"The Empress's New Clothes" involves an exhibitionist empress and her clever husband, who commissions a device to allow her to show off all she likes without risking her political career.

"The Goose Girl" changes the relationship between the princess and the maid so that they're in love with one another, and the maid repents for her betrayal by the end of the story. It's a very different kind of happily ever after, and I think it was an improvement over the original tale.

"The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing" has a woman dressing up as a prostitute for her husband, and being treated accordingly. This is the weakest story in the collection, both for the wife's musings about the role of women in society, and the impassive narration.

"The Ugly Duckling" is the least erotic of the stories in the collection, but one of the most enjoyable. Instead of growing into a beautiful swan, the ugly duckling finds a husband who loves her, and winds up happier than the sisters who set out to exploit their beauty.

While the collection does have its high points, I found it overall repetitive, with little variations in the sex scenes. It's entertaining enough, but I can't see myself rereading it.


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Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has generated a lot of buzz. I usually steer clear of books everyone's talking about, because I tend to intensely dislike books everyone likes. In this case, though, I saw it wasn't universally liked, so I thought it was worth a shot. I'm not sure if I'm glad I read it, but I did get a lot out of it.

Gone Girl is about Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in North Carthage, Missouri, when Amy vanishes from their home. They met in New York City, but moved back to Missouri to be near Nick's ailing mother after Nick and Amy were laid off. Nick blames the internet for the loss of his print journalism job, while Amy seems to be making the most of it. If you go by what's on the surface, anyway.

But of the many themes in this book, the strongest is that you can't trust what's on the surface. It explores the notion that we don't really know one another, and how much of a risk we take when we devote our lives to another person. Nick, it turns out, is selfish and immature and unable to communicate, while Amy is manipulative and toxic. It occurred to me about halfway through the book that these two were meant for each other, and not in a good way.

Within Nick's perspective sections, we're treated to some additional themes about the changing American landscape, misogyny, inheriting the sins of one's parents, and of the best self brought about through strife. Through Amy, we get some commentary about masks and personas, feminism (though her use of feminism only serves her as far as it creates a convenient narrative), and power plays.

What a lot of other reviewers seem unaware of is that both narrators are unreliable, in their own ways. Nick desperately wants the reader to like him, so he explains his actions away to the very end. Amy wants the reader to see how smart and superior she is, so even her emotionally driven choices are justified with philosophical underpinnings. It's a story about masks, so of course the main characters continue to wear masks throughout the book.

I liked neither of the main characters by the end, but I was driven to find out what happens to them. I hoped for a comeuppance, while waiting for certain plot seeds to come to fruition. Gillian Flynn writes cleanly; all of the twists and turns in the narrative are telegraphed well ahead of time.

The ending hit me pretty hard. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was what the narrative called for. It took me a few hours to even figure out if I'd liked it. It certainly wasn't uplifting.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan. It's interesting how their impressions of other characters' voices sounded so similar, and their impressions of the other character's speaking voice even sounded like the other voice actor. That's difficult to pull off in a collaborative audio book, and I thought they did it pretty seamlessly.


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Review: Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages by Dean Koontz


Oddkins: A Fable for All AgesOddkins: A Fable for All Ages by Dean R. Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read Oddkins when I was a kid. I don't remember exactly how old I was, but I must've been at least ten. I remember being frightened, but also very impressed, and absolutely enamored of the illustrations. So, when I saw it was available on Kindle, I picked it up without hesitation.

Oddkins is about a group of stuffed animals who have to go on a journey to find the new toymaker. There are toys bent on stopping them so the toy workshop will go to the forces of evil, instead. Meanwhile, the nephew of the former toymaker and current owner of the workshop spots the animated toys, and is also chasing them to find out of they're real.

The illustrations in the story are lovely, and I recommend the full color versions, if you have a device that can support it. The story, itself, is full of dangers and tension, though the dialogue often sounds wooden or contrived.

Oddkins is written as a middle grade novel, which can make its target age hard to pinpoint. It's too mature for 8-year-olds; it starts with a death, and its references to The Dark One, violent toys, and Nick Jagg are a bit much for that audience. Its use of sentient stuffed animals as the protagonists and a storybook tone makes it a hard sell for the preteen crowd. I would advise any parents considering giving this to their kids read it first and make the call about whether it's too mature or scary. It could be an excellent bedtime story to read to your kids, provided you help your kids understand that it's just a story, and their toys aren't going to come to life to hurt them.

Nostalgia value counts for a lot, and I'm sure I like this as much as I do because I loved it when it first came out. I'm very forgiving of the flaws, and I honestly can't tell if the plot is predictable or I just remembered it that well. If this was a part of your childhood, it may well be worth the investment. If it wasn't, though, I wouldn't blame you one bit for skipping it.


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Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: Erase Me (Positron #3) by Margaret Atwood


Erase Me (Positron, #3)Erase Me by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third installment of the Positron serial story by Margaret Atwood. I'm told there's supposed to be another, but I haven't found any solid details, so I'm left just crossing my fingers. While this was a good episode of an overall serial, it felt incomplete.

This episode has Stan returning to the Consilience prison, where people struggling with crippling debt have sold themselves into a lifetime of living for one month in prison, one month with the illusion of freedom in a gated, self-sustaining community, throughout the year. Stan has found a loophole. Or, rather, his captor has. She works for security, and she's disillusioned with the system. So she's going to free Stan entirely by making it look like he died. At the hands of his cheating wife.

Stan has a good amount of uncertainty in the plan, and Charmaine's heartfelt breakdown over what she has to do is memorable. We're very much with Stan and Charmaine in this installment, where before readers might have felt distanced from their activities.

The parallels to 1984 seem a lot more pronounced in this installment than in the last two. Even some of the language spouted by the spokesman for Positron sounds Big Brotherly.

I hope there's more to the story. Because, while this does resolve the immediate conflict in a satisfying way, I still have a lot of questions about the overall picture. I'll be watching for news of another planned installment.


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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Choke Collar (Positron #2) by Margaret Atwood


Choke Collar (Positron, #2)Choke Collar by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second episode in Margaret Atwood's serialized Positron story, about a near-future society where people willingly go to prison to get out of their crippling debt.

Where we last left off, Stan was fantasizing about the sexy note he found under his fridge. He assumes it's written by the woman who lives in the house he shares six months of the year, alternating, with another married couple who have also signed up for the Positron program. He was wrong, and he now finds himself forced to reenact the recorded encounters between his wife and her husband. His cheating wife, meanwhile, is stuck in the prison for an awfully long time, and demoted to laundry folding, to boot.

All is not as it seems, neither in the prison nor Stan's house. He gets a glimpse at a little more of the picture. Any reader, meanwhile, might see shades of 1984 in the world Atwood is positing.

Having read
  In Other Worlds

has enhanced my appreciation of this serial novel, but it's not necessary. It clarifies some of the concepts and gets into Atwood's head a bit.

I was glad I picked up the third episode for my Kindle before I started reading this, because the cliffhanger was almost more than I could take.

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Review: Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy


Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismDeveloping Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Temple Grandin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For my day job, I help people with disabilities maintain jobs in the community. Some of my co-workers, meanwhile, match people to jobs and try to get them those jobs. We serve a few people with an autism diagnosis, so I thought this might help as a resource. It contains a lot of perspectives I hadn't considered before, and is absolutely packed with vocational information, for such a short book.

Temple Grandin is best known for her autism diagnosis, either because you've seen her HBO-produced movie where she's played by Claire Danes, or because you've read about her in Oliver Sacks' Anthropologist on Mars. She's also a brilliant woman, and has served as something of a translator between the neurotypical and autistic brain.

This book is mostly addressed toward those with mild autism: questions to ask oneself about learning style, talents, and things to start thinking about. The book is divided into short sections about preparing oneself for the working world in various ways, and pointing out factors many neurotypicals take for granted. People with intellectual disabilities aren't prepped for a career the way neurotypicals are, or at least they weren't when Grandin was writing the book a decade ago.

The final section includes details about various professions, including the training and skills needed, how to prepare, and accommodations that may be necessary. Each career is explained through a person who works in that field. I was rather surprised to find that I knew one of the people discussed in that section, and not through my job, but from childhood.

This book seems like it might be useful, especially for kids with a mild autism diagnosis who are in middle school or just entering high school, or for their parents. It raises a lot of good questions to think about when preparing for the wider world, and anyone equipped with this information early on would have a greater shot at success. It discusses a lot of factors I've seen in my capacity as job coach, but it also brings up a lot of things I hadn't thought of. I was glad I read it.


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Review: The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius, edited by John Joseph Adams


The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil GeniusThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, I've read an anthology, and come away with a mixed impression of the overall work. I loved the story I bought the anthology to read, and it was worth the cost of the book, but not all of the stories stacked up to that one. Here are my impressions of each, in the order they appear in the anthology:

"Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List" by Austin Grossman
I already knew Grossman could write mad geniuses, having loved his Soon I Will Be Invincible when I read it a couple of years ago. This is told in the form of a letter to the mad scientist's girlfriend, who has stumbled across his lair and discovered his secret identity. 5/5 stars.

"Father of the Groom" by Harry Turtledove
Mad scientist father turns the blushing bride into a literal bridezilla, wreaking havoc on the mall and surrounding suburbs. The men are clever, misunderstood geniuses, while the women are shallow airheads. Sigh. 2/5 stars.

"Laughter at the Academy" by Seanan McGuire
This is the story I bought the anthology for, and, as I said above, it was worth the cost of the book. I read it right before bed, though, which I don't recommend. I had bizarre and vivid dreams. In this, being a mad scientist is about whether one has a mental illness, and this latent tendency is being triggered all over the country by a very clever psychological scientist. 5/5 stars.

"Letter to the Editor" by David D. Levine
A mad scientist has a justification for his evil acts, and writes to tell the media. Creative take, and entertaining. 4/5 stars.

"Instead of a Loving Heart" by Jeremiah Tolbert
The AI trapped inside an ailing robot body has no choice but to do as his master instructs. Does it care what happens to the human race? Or does it have a soul? Typical of a sentient robot story, but I enjoyed it. 4/5 stars.

"The Executor" by Daniel H. Wilson
A mad scientist sets up an impossible test one has to solve before one can inherit his outrageous fortune. Generations later, the family is at one another's throats, still vying for the inheritance, which has grown. A man outside the family squabbles gives it a shot, so his infant daughter will live. Confusing narrative, but I liked the ending. 3/5 stars.

"The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan" by Heather Lindsley
An evil villain makes ends meet by coaching would-be supervillains on their monologues, costumes, and confidence. I liked how smart the character was, and the resolution had me grinning. 5/5 stars.

"Homo Perfectus" by David Farland
A scientist engineers himself to be the perfect man, and tries to find the perfect mate. His chosen candidate is dosed with pheromones, rohypnol, and some other inhibition-lowering substance, wherein she's reduced to a panting, begging animal, and he's too disgusted with her to take advantage. This story made my skin crawl. Creepy and gross. 1/5 stars.

"Ancient Equations" by L. A. Banks
A lonely mad scientist discovers where math and magic intersect, and summons an ancient goddess. Gets exactly what he bargained for. The dark-skinned goddess's use of ebonics wasn't appreciated, nor was her falling in line with the lusty, low-moral stereotype. I liked her attitude, but not the racial stereotypes. 3/5 stars.

"Rural Singularity" by Alan Dean Foster
A reporter goes to New Mexico to investigate a claim of a living two-headed chicken, and discovers a scarily precocious child. As he's planning how he might exploit his discovery, he makes one slip. Disturbing, in a good way. 4/5 stars.

"Captain Justice Saves the Day" by Genevieve Valentine
Tales of a mad scientist's assistant. At the end of the day, everyone has bills to pay. But one doesn't always have to perform one's job at 100%. Brenda's resourcefulness made me chuckle. 5/5 stars.

"The Space Between" by Diana Gabaldon
The longest selection in the anthology, and not worth the pages. If you're a fan of the Outlander series, you'll enjoy this one. I found it pointless, overwrought, and oversexed. 2/5 stars.

"Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution" by Carrie Vaughn
The spunky granddaughter of Queen Victoria investigates a steampunk mad scientist. It had all the elements of a story that should appeal, but it somehow fell flat. Maybe I was still mad about "The Space Between" when I read it. 3/5 stars.

"Blood and Stardust" by Laird Barron
A woman cobbled together by a mad scientist betrays her maker, for very good reason. She's clever, but the story didn't leave me with an overall positive impression. 3/5 stars.

"A More Perfect Union" by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Mad scientist specializing in political genius helps a promising candidate move up in the world. Forgettable story, and it felt significantly padded. 2/5 stars.

"Rocks Fall" by Naomi Novik
A lower-rung superhero meets an infamous supervillain, and they have a chat while waiting to be rescued. The mad scientist comes off as far more sympathetic than in any of the other stories in this anthology. Good characterization, and even a little touching. 5/5 stars.

"We Interrupt This Broadcast" by Mary Robinette Kowal
Post-WWII mad scientist is dying of TB, and is taking out Washington, DC before he goes using the primitive punchcard computers of his time. Doesn't want his lovely assistant to know he's dying, because he's in love with her. Bittersweet. 4/5 stars.

"The Last Dignity of Man" by Marjorie M. Liu
Alexander Luthor in a world without superheroes, who wants desperately to be the comic book villain so a Superman will emerge. The only story in this anthology with a gay protagonist, and he's sympathetic and redeemable, at that. Entertaining, but excessively gross in parts. 4/5 stars.

"Pittsburg Technology" by Jeffrey Ford
A disturbing little tale about signing up for one minor change in one's life to create a cascade effect that turns one's life around. But, if you're looking for that little change, you can ruin everything. Intriguing concept. 4/5 stars.

"Mofongo Knows" by Grady Hendrix
Supergenius ape foiled by his nemesis is a sideshow attraction in modern America. What happens when his nemesis is no longer around to keep him in check. Felt a bit padded. 3/5 stars.

"The Food Taster’s Boy" by Ben Winters
All-powerful despot sets up a young boy to become his nemesis, and spends the days until his return mentally mapping out how their final confrontation will go. Didn't like the dispassionate narration, and felt like the story was ultimately pointless. 2/5 stars.


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