Mean Streets by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson, and Thomas E. Sniegoski

Paul R. Potts

In this review, I mention Kat Richardson’s “Greywalker.” Since writing this, I have read the first eight of Richardson’s Greywalker novels. My advice is to read the first three, and stop. The later ones get quite bad, and I decided to send the whole set to the Goodwill rather than keep it in my library.

I’ve also read three of Thomas E. Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler books. They are not awful, but they are wildly uneven. I hope to, at some point, examine his writing in a little more detail, because he writes some of the worst sentences I’ve ever read.

And also, at this point I’ve gotten sick of Green. I think the Nightside books are a lot of fun, if you’re willing to enjoy them for what they are, and not binge on them (if you read them back-to-back, their similarities become painfully clear). But I gave up on the Secret Histories books, and the Ghost Finders books, and found Shadows Fall disappointing. Some of his series may be better, but I have lost interest. His homophobic portrayals of recurring effeminate, gay, or transgender characters, who in his stories are always morally repugnant, is particularly tiresome.

Of the purveyors of “urban fantasy” in the collection, the only writer who has held up for me is Jim Butcher. I’ve read all fifteen (!) of his Dresden Files books. They are uniformly quite entertaining and I daresay that these books will remain minor fantasy classics, in part because Butcher seems to always retain a certain lightness and energy in his storytelling, even in the middle of very dark events and circumstances.

OK, a quick review: Mean Streets, an anthology of four urban horror/fantasy novellas; I got a copy from the Book Warehouse discount bookstore at the Birch Run outlet mall.

The first one is by Jim Butcher, part of the Dresden Files arc. It’s a little back-story related to what is going on with Harry’s custody of two of the holy swords. It’s not a bad piece, and it ends in an oddly upbeat way. That’s refreshing, but it isn’t really the best piece in the book.

The second piece is set in the Nightside world by Simon R. Green. It’s a brief storyline involving supernatural detective John Taylor, Dead Boy and a woman looking for her missing husband. It’s not all that effective; it might work as a sort of teaser introduction to the Nightside books for someone who hasn’t read them.

The most interesting one is by Kat Richardson — I’ve not read any of her work before, but the story involves the “Greywalker” character — a woman who can see ghosts and the spirit world and interact with them, as a sort of heads-up display right over top of her normal view of the world. It has to do with the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, and it’s nicely done. It gets a little revenge-fantasy-ish in the ending, but this one really kept my interest.

The last piece is by Thomas E. Sniegoski, someone else I had never heard of. His contribution introduces an angel character, Remy (Remiel) and it was quite evocative, although too short to work up much real drama. I am interested in his storytelling style here — it’s very sparse, very spare, lean prose.

So overall the book is not a great collection — I mean, it’s barely much of an anthology and the pieces shouldn’t really count as “novellas” — I don’t think any of them is longer than 10,000 words, although I didn’t count. I will say that if you are interested in this genre but have not read any of these authors, it might be a good introduction to the genre. The Green and Butcher pieces themselves are not worth very much in and of themselves. I am a little bit intrigued by the two lesser-known writers, however.

Saginaw, Michigan
January 4, 2013

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