Chicks Kick Butt
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I’m realizing that it’s been a while since I reviewed an anthology. When I worked for the newspaper, I reviewed them fairly frequently (often to get some sci-fi into the column), but on my own, I don’t tend to gravitate towards them. But when Tor sent me Chicks Kick Butt, I couldn’t resist reading it. It offers thirteen stories of chicks… well, you get the idea.
Let me say right up front that anthologies of this kind—ones that have a very broad theme and that allow authors to use previously created characters—can run into a roadblock. Specifically, many of these stories are set in established universes, and it shows. While none of the stories in the volume absolutely need prior knowledge to understand them, it’s obvious that there’s a lot going on that isn’t explained within the pages of this book.
What this can lead to is a lot of gratuitous info-dumps. The authors feel the need to either explain things to the newbie reader or to include enough juicy details to lure new readers to their books. As I mentioned, it’s not too intrusive in these tales, but it does lurk around the edges.
That said, a couple of the stories are not resolved by the female leads at all, although they do play their part. In Jenna Black’s “Nine-Tenths of the Law”, the protagonist gives control over her body over to a demon in order to survive what she’s gotten herself into. Carole Nelson Douglas’s “Monster Mash” has the main character solving a mystery, but the actual resolving of the situation is left up to two minor characters. And in Nancy Holder’s “Beyond the Pale”, the main character disobeys orders and ends up stepping into another dimension, so I’m not sure where the resolution is in this story.
In the main, though, the stories are pretty good. Rachel Caine’s contribution takes place in her Weather Warden universe, introducing a rogue djinn and providing a satisfying twist at the story’s end. Karen Chance’s tale contains a humorous drinking contest between the protagonist and a vampire. P. N. Elrod’s main character helps to save a young girl from an abusive husband who just happens to be a vampire who has taken over her entire town.
But the ones that I liked the best were the ones in which the chicks really did kick butt—going in and holding their own, standing up for their own rights and the rights of those they’re protecting. Lilith Saintcrow’s “Monsters” portrays a vampire who is one of those who shelters and protects those with great creative talents, and it shows her quest to avenge her charges when they are murdered. Elizabeth A. Vaughn’s “A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still Be Red” takes place in a medieval setting, with a main character seeking to free a group of slaves.
By far my favorite entry in the volume is Rachel Vincent’s “Hunt”. It features a feline shape-shifter, which in itself is pretty unusual. It works very well as a self-contained story. And although it probably has more violence than the other stories, it’s well handled and allows the protagonist to work through problems and face down some bad guys with courage and determination.
Overall, I liked this volume. The stories were well-written, and it allowed me to get a glimpse into the worlds of some series that I don’t currently read. Plus, it’s just nice to read about some women who don’t allow anything—men or monsters—to get in their way.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 27, 2011.
Page Count: 343
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher