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Murmur reviews short stories 
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Post Murmur reviews short stories
I'm making this thread to write some reviews of short stories, my favorite literary form. In particular, I like older short stories, such as those written prior to 1950. I suppose most of what I read is from the early 20th century to the mid 19th century.

Ambrose Bierce said, "Novel: a short story padded." He said a lot more about the novel, but that's the part that I like the most. I think novels are overrated. The full quote is here: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/555013- ... omposition

I'll start my reviews with this little thing. Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29672

I just now noticed that the HTML version of the book has more illustrations than the epub version, which is what I read on my phone. I'm looking at the HTML version while I type this and it has illustrations that I hadn't seen before. The illustrations for this book are, in general, gorgeous.

None of this particular review will be hidden by spoilers, because it's not necessary. Each story is similar to the next, and what I'm writing here won't spoil the enjoyment of anything.

The book is a motley collection of stories, all of which have similar themes and styles. Ridiculous magical rituals (which aren't described as magical) are omnipresent. Plenty of death is present. Religion and royalty are frequently used. Basic numerology is commonly used.

Probably the most common magical ritual is the planting of seeds. Seeds are planted and then magic trees grow overnight. That sort of thing. Again, the magical rituals are never called "magical", but it's pretty clear that that's what they are.

Weird plot twists are occasionally present. I remember one story that has a snake that came up to a guy in a forest, and told the guy, "I'm going to eat you!" The guy said, "No, you're not!" And then the snake said something like, "Ok, so take this seed, plant it at this spot over here, a tree will grow, I'm going to change into a woman, and you'll marry me." The guy said, "Ok."

Talking animals abound. Especially snakes. Snakes seem to be a popular villain within these stories. Snakes changing into women and marrying men are pretty common.

The number three is all over the place. Everything happens in threes. Here's an example. A mean step-mother told a girl to do some outrageous impossible task, while simultaneously taking the ox to a field so it can graze. Once in the field, the ox told the girl to take a nap and the task would be done. And the task was done. The girl went back home, and the next day, the step-mom told the girl to do another impossible task while having the ox graze in the field. And it again happened on the next day, and that was the end of the tasks. See? Three times. That's all over the place. Very rarely does something happen twice or four times.

The stories are translated from the original languages. I believe one of the original languages is the predecessor to Ukrainian, or actual Ukrainian. I recognized some of the words, especially "gryvnya", which is the name of the modern Ukrainian currency. Sometimes written as "hryvnya". "Tsar", "tsarina", and other royalty-specific names should be pretty easy for English speakers to understand.

I have a bad tendency to forget most of what I read, sadly. So, most of the stories aren't memorable for me, except for two. These two.

1. The Sparrow and the Bush
Truly a silly load of nonsense. Probably good for reading to children. Uses tons of repetition. Has homicidal birds, talking plants, talking fire, talking water, and so on. Let me try to summarize. A homicidal sparrow wants to swing on a bush's branch and the bush is defiant. So this murderous bird tries to get a goat to eat the bush. The goat is likewise defiant. And the homicidal sparrow asks a wolf to murder the goat and the wolf refuses. And so on. Eventually someone consents to the sparrow's evil requests and lastly, the bush, after being nibbled on by the goat, let's the sparrow swing on its branch, and it sings to the sparrow. This story is fun to read if you read it quickly, and out loud.

2. The Story of Little Tsar Novishny, the False Sister, and the Faithful Beasts
This is one of the longer stories. Kind of like an adventure.

The devil changes into a serpent and chases a prince and a princess. Always chasing. The prince and princess rode a super fast horse, and the serpent chased them by flying. The prince and princess eventually take refuge in a hut. After a while, the fact that the serpent is actually the devil is no longer mentioned, and it seems to be irrelevant.

It contains a nonsensical plot twist. The sister betrays the brother to the serpent, for no reason whatsoever. Absolutely no reason whatsoever. And later, she's eaten. I think that's what happened to her. She died in any case.

The brother somehow conjured some faithful animals to help him survive. A few talking dogs I think.

This story is an utter load of craziness from start to finish, and a lot of fun to read.

I give this book, Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales., a recommendation of:
Read it if you like extremely crazy stories. It's fun to read.



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Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:27 am
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Ambrose Bierce wrote:
"Novel: a short story padded."
:lol:

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged, 645,000 words approx. :help:

but i guess we can make an exception for

Victor Hugo - Les Miserables, 655,478 words :clap2:

though i have braved neither one. :-D

but that is where an audiobook can save the day.



Thu Jan 21, 2016 12:53 am
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
youkrst wrote:
Ambrose Bierce wrote:
"Novel: a short story padded."
:lol:

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged, 645,000 words approx. :help:

but i guess we can make an exception for

Victor Hugo - Les Miserables, 655,478 words :clap2:

though i have braved neither one. :-D

but that is where an audiobook can save the day.

I agree with Ambrose Bierce's stance, regarding Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged is outrageously verbose when it doesn't have to be. Atlas Shrugged could easily be 1/5 the length that it is. That would still make it around 200 pages, but then to get it down to novella length, a lot of useless scenes could be omitted. :)



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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964

http://www.amazon.com/Science-Fiction-H ... 076&sr=8-1

This book is a collection of old science fiction short stories. The stories within this collection are magnificent. Truly superb. I've read a few collections of sci fi stories and this book might be the best one I've read.

I do have one complaint. The story The Cold Equations. The premise is good, but the execution is horrible. It's a plodding, repetitious, utter bore. Bleah.

The recent movie The Last Mimsy is based on the story Mimsy Were the Borogoves. The short story is better than the movie.

Nightfall is an excellent story. However, I found the notion that the beings in the story were deathly afraid of darkness to be extremely implausible. But, I know a lot of people like it. So whatevers.

Fredric Brown, the author of Arena, is a little known sci fi author, who is truly fantastic. I read one of his other collections and he's incredibly clever with his plots.

The Nine Billion Names of God isn't that great.

Surface Tension is a wonderful adventure story about microscopic aquatic humans, exploring their environment.

Microcosmic God is a great story about a guy who makes a microscopic society of inventors.

The Weapon Shop is by AE van Vogt. He writes, what I call, extreme science fiction, and The Weapon Shop is no exception.



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Sat Jan 23, 2016 6:13 pm
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Bedbugs
by Rick Hautala

http://www.amazon.com/Bedbugs-Leisure-H ... op?ie=UTF8

I love horror. It's my favorite literary genre. I love horror short stories. So I bought this book by Rick Hautala a few years ago and read it at the airport and on a plane.

I was shocked at how crappy it was. The stories are mostly just nonsensical gore. Rubies and Pearls was just plain gross. Overall, the stories seemed incredibly amateurish, with frequent swearing, loads of blood, frequent murders, masturbation, and gore.

Murmur's rating: It's a flaming pile of poo. Read it if you hate yourself.



Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:14 pm
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8492

The first story, The Repairer of Reputations, is exquisite.

The second story, The Mask, is ok, not great.

All of the other stories are an utter bore, sadly. Lovecraft was a fan of Chambers, strangely.

Recommendation: Read the first two stories and skip the rest.



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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The Big Book of Adventure Stories
edited by Otter Penzler

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book-Adventur ... re+stories

I read this book more than a year ago. This book is humongous. 896 pages. The majority of those stories are superb.

The stories in this book are old adventure stories written in the 20th century. They are adventure stories in the sense that men and women (usually men) are struggling (usually violently) against some enemy in some kind of rough or remote location. Like an island or a jungle or some ruins. Stuff like that. The stories typically have clear heroes and clear villains. In other words, the hero is typically obviously good and the villain is typically obviously evil. (This good vs. evil storytelling kind of bothers me, since it's so unrealistic. However, it's pervasive in Western literature, and I'm used to it, and I must admit, it generally makes for good storytelling.)

The stories at the very beginning of the book didn't capture my attention that much. There was an implausible one about a Mongol warrior named Khlit defeating some guys armed with rifles, while he and his troops used horses and swords. And then I wasn't too impressed with the Grey Mouser & Fafhrd story. Once the reader gets past the initial fantasy stuff, the stories are generally wonderful.

Most of the stories have notions of race that are different from what we think today. In other words, the stories are NOT politically correct. The delicate college students of today would want this book banned or burned or whatever they're doing these days.

The book has a small number of illustrations. They're minimal but quite nice. I can remember the ones in the Buck Rogers story. The Han Girl and American Girl images are great.

Here are some of the stories that I can remember.

1. The Girl in the Golden Atom. Idiotic premise. Absolutely superb storytelling. Truly great. Because the storytelling is so wonderful, I can say that this story is a gem in our literary history.
2. Tarzan the Terrible. I hated it. It was a full length novel in this collection of short stories. It seems out of place. I found this to be a huge chore to finish. Tarzan is apparently as physically powerful as Captain America and has a superb set of senses too.
3. Black Cargo. The hero is a slaver. I found it difficult to have any sympathy for him or enjoy the story at all. It's well written, but the subject material bothered me a bit.
4. The Buck Rogers story, the name of which I can't remember. Great story. Really great. Probably my favorite story in the book. The name is something like 2433 AD. It has a date in the name.

Recommendation: Read it if you like adventure stories. This collection is wonderful. But skip Tarzan the Terrible.



Tue Apr 05, 2016 8:16 pm
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Murmur wrote:
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964

http://www.amazon.com/Science-Fiction-H ... 076&sr=8-1

This book is a collection of old science fiction short stories. The stories within this collection are magnificent. Truly superb. I've read a few collections of sci fi stories and this book might be the best one I've read.
Agree. These were some of my favourites back when I was a total science fiction addict at age 15.
Quote:

I do have one complaint. The story The Cold Equations. The premise is good, but the execution is horrible. It's a plodding, repetitious, utter bore. Bleah.

The recent movie The Last Mimsy is based on the story Mimsy Were the Borogoves. The short story is better than the movie.

Nightfall is an excellent story. However, I found the notion that the beings in the story were deathly afraid of darkness to be extremely implausible. But, I know a lot of people like it. So whatevers.
The Nighfal premise is highly plausible. Having five suns and one day of dark every five thousand years would naturally produce an evolutionary fear of the dark.
Quote:

Fredric Brown, the author of Arena, is a little known sci fi author, who is truly fantastic. I read one of his other collections and he's incredibly clever with his plots.

The Nine Billion Names of God isn't that great.
Well I liked it, the stars blink out one by one.
Quote:
Surface Tension is a wonderful adventure story about microscopic aquatic humans, exploring their environment.
Total all time favourite - James Blish.
Quote:
Microcosmic God is a great story about a guy who makes a microscopic society of inventors.

The Weapon Shop is by AE van Vogt. He writes, what I call, extreme science fiction, and The Weapon Shop is no exception.
All these stories were so inventive and creative. Whadapened?


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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Short-S ... 0803260717

I got this book because I was interested in his horror stories. I read this book probably 15 years ago. The stories in this book are separated into three chunks. Horror stories, War stories, and Tall Tales.

Sadly, I discovered that his horror stories were boring. Not creepy at all. It was very disappointing.

I skipped to the Tall Tales. They were ok. A bit different than what I was used to. Not bad. Oil of Dog is a famous one of those.

I dreaded reading the War stories. I was expecting an utter bore. I was shocked at how wrong it was. Bierce's war stories are jewels of English literature. (And no, I don't mean An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I truly hate that story. It's ridiculously overrated.) Bierce's war stories are dramatizations of reality. They show the utter bleakness, misery, and dejection of war. They are the greatest anti-war stories I've ever read, and none of them seem to be intentionally anti-war. High school students should be forced to read these stories (and again, not An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge).

Here are a few of the war stories which I consider great:
A Horseman in the Sky
Chickamauga
The Affair at Coulter's Notch

Here's another link to Bierce's stories which you can read for free.

https://americanliterature.com/author/a ... ks-stories

Recommendation: Read Bierce's war stories and his tall tales. Skip the horror stories.



Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:17 pm
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories

https://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Book-Engl ... 0192141872

I'm sure plenty of these stories can be found online for free. Silver Blaze by Arthur Conan Doyle, for example.

Most of the stories in this book are great. I remember the last one the most. It's a humorous crime mystery story about searching for a missing cat.

Unfortunately, I can't remember what's in most of the stories. I remember a murder mystery in a library, solved by the librarian, and a murder committed by a little boy's sister. The little boy was interested in poisons and would cultivate them in his room, and the sister took some of it.

One of the reviewers on Amazon was disappointed with the book, and the fact that it's actually NOT a collection of detective stories. He's correct. Most of the stories aren't detective stories. They're more like crime or mystery. However, in my opinion, it doesn't matter. The stories are superb.

Recommendation: The book is absolutely excellent. If you like detective stuff or crime stuff, read it.



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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
The Best Of Roald Dahl

http://www.powells.com/book/best-of-roa ... 0679729914

Roald Dahl is spectacularly overrated. His plot twists are great and all, but good lord, his storytelling style is slow. Ungodly slow. Slooooooooooow. Painfully slow. Excruciatingly slow. In other words, he fills his stories with pointless fiddly little details that make the reader angry (specifically me), asking aloud "Aw god, get to the point! Some point, any point! Do something!"

There were only two or three stories that I liked despite the torturous storytelling.

One positive reviewer described his stories as "wicked". I'll grant him that. The plot twists were wicked and imaginative and well done. The majority of the stories are like "light horror" and that's perfectly fine. Light horror works.

Recommendation: Don't bother.



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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories

https://www.amazon.com/Roald-Dahls-Book ... 68&sr=1-12

I mentioned in my previous post that Roald Dahl is extremely overrated. Fortunately, he didn't write any of the stories in this book. He just chose them and put them in a book.

The stories in this book are creepy and spectacularly well done. The book is unusually short for a collection of short stories.

Recommendation: It's a must if you like creepy ghost stories.



Thu Aug 25, 2016 5:50 pm
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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
As I am currently reading a collection of science-fiction stories, "The Eighth Science Fiction Megapack" (borrowed it on-line form our regional e-library), you might want to check it out. Has some very good stories, and a few (so far) questionable ones.

I have to disagree with you bout Frederic Brown being "little known." He is a standout from the "Golden Age of Science Fiction." But since I have been reading this genre since I was a kid (60 years ago),I guess I know a bit about the history.

Must comment on some of the stories you mention. Brown's "Arena" was adapted to an episode of "Star Trek" (the original series). "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov (another legend) was later expanded by him into a novel. You might want to check it out. They also made a movie, which wasn't that good.

Keep reading, and keep writing. I will try to keep up with your posts.


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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Gods, Men and Ghosts: The Best Supernatural Fiction of Lord Dunsany

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1469 ... and_Ghosts

I'd heard of Lord Dunsany from Robert M. Price, while he was discussing Lovecraft. He said that Lovecraft was influenced by Lord Dunsany's work. And a buddy of mine who's a Lovecraft fan told me about him. So I got this book.

This is an exquisite book. Most of the stories in this book are remarkably short and could be said to be in the genre of "fantasy". The stories in the book are categorized in four sections. Men, Heroes and Wonders, Jorkens, and Gods. Men is a few stories about humans and ghosts. Heroes and Wonders are about various heroes, as you would read in myth stories. Jorkens is about some guy who goes to a bar and tells tall tales. Gods is about mythical gods. I like the Heroes section the most.

I particularly liked the stories:
  • The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth
  • A Narrow Escape
  • The Gods of Pegana
  • The Hoard of the Gibbelins

Lovecraft's story The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath extremely strongly resembles Lord Dunsany's stories in style and content. It seems very clear that that particular Lovecraft story was inspired by Lord Dunsany's stuff. Lord Dunsany has a few stories about dreams too, like Lovecraft.

Most of the illustrations in the book aren't that great, sadly. I do like the cover though, which is from The Gods of Pegana.

Recommendation: If you like Lovecraft, read it.



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Post Re: Murmur reviews short stories
Murmer, you have brought back a lot of memories to this fan of the short story. I remember reading so many of them. And the authors, a trip down memory lane. When I was a teen-ager my A, B, C's were (Isaa) Asimov, (Ray) Bradbury, and (Arthur C.) Clarke.

BTW, my personal favorite story by Lord Dunsany was "The Two Bottles of Relish."


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