Down a Street That Wasn’t There (Marie Brennan)

Down a Street That Wasn’t There is a short story collection by Marie Brennan.
Finished on: 29.9.2020
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Down a Street That Wasn’t There is a very nice short story collection, even if I didn’t quite love it as much as Brennan’s other collection The Nine Lands. But given that I work at university myself and am a perpetual student, it is nice that a lot of her stories reference academia in one way or another. It was a very good read overall.

The book cover showing a human figure with butterfly wings walking down a stone corridor.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

Coyotaje

Inés is looking for a coyote that will bring her from Mexicali through the desert North to the USA. But the trip is dangerous, and coyotes are dangerous, too. Especially the only one she can afford: El Rojo.

Coyotaje starts off pretty realistic and then veers into more fantastic territory. I rather liked it, though given the recent hubbub surrounding American Dirt, I kept wondering if telling the story was such a good idea (as far as I know, Brennan is white/not Mexican). At least, it definitely didn’t feel exploitative to me (but then I’m also white, so…).

Selection

What does the selection process for becoming a vampire look like? Read on and find out.

This (very short) story takes a nitpick as a starting point that I have been having myself: you turn somebody into a vampire, you better be damn sure that you want to spend an eternity connected to this person. But how do you make sure? Well, the selection process here is a fun way to think about it, that’s for sure.

Such as Dreams Are Made Of

Holt knows real estate and he knows how to make a profit. He has specialized in tearing old buildings down to make space for the new. But his projects don’t make everyone happy and when Holt is attacked in his office, it’s only the beginning.

I really liked the central idea here and the story was definitely a good read, but I didn’t fall in love with it entirely. Still, I enjoyed it.

La Molejera

Anita is looking forward to the fieldwork for her research, staying for an extended period with the Nahua to learn about their religious practices and connect with her own family history. But there seems to be one secret the villagers don’t want to let her in on: the secret of La Molejera.

La Molejera has an excellent, creepy atmosphere that keeps crawling towards you: you can see it coming, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming at all. Brennan’s anthropologist background is also very obvious here. It adds more realism to the story, but it also means that white anthropology’s difficult history with natives all around the world adds a difficulty layer here that the story doesn’t really contend with, apart from having Anita have Nahua roots. It might be asking a little too much of a short story, though, to open that particular can of worms on a sidenote (as with the first story, though, I should probably add again that I am white myself, so probably not the best person to judge).

Comparison of Efficacy Rates for Seven Antipathetics as Employed Against Lycanthropes

A study of the various ways to fight against lycanthropes, a lot of them not really successful.

Written as a scientific paper, I thought that the idea was pretty fun, but maybe ran a tad too long. Still, it works pretty well as a comment on the ideal of a scientists who gives everything to science, especially if other people have to bear the brunt of that decision.

The Last Wendy

Peter Pan returns to London to get Wendy. Only maybe a lot more time has passed than he thought and the girl he encounters isn’t interested in what he has to offer.

I absolutely love Peter Pan, but I have no problems acknowledging that there are issues in and to the story. Brennan lays her finger in a pretty obvious wound and digs around a little, producing a thoughtful and engaging critique that is also a very nice story.

The Genius Prize

The Twentieth Annual Metzger-Patel Genius prize, pitting robotics against bioengineering, promises to be a great show. But exactly what kind of spectacle, nobody could have foreseen.

I’m not much of a kaiju and mecha fan, so this last story wasn’t really in my wheelhouse. That being said, it was entertaining enough and a nice end to the collection.

Summarizing: Good collection.

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