First, let me record a notable comic book that I have read this week. I usually don't comment on these at Booklikes, simply because I read them in single-issue format and don't have the time to review the piles of comics that I read. Here is the most notable one I read this week:
Violent Love, now at almost 10 issues long, is a comic-book masterpiece in the making, and will be one if such quality continues. It's a crime/romance story (as the covers advertise) about a young woman who, through faults both her own and others', becomes involved in an intricate web of love and crime. What makes the story great is not only the engaging qualities of the characters and dialogue, but the combination of these things with the artist's mastery of paneling (i.e., the placement of figures and speech bubbles on the page, together with the arrangement of the panels, all in service of directing the reader's attention). It's been my opinion for quite a while now that, whatever its other virtues, a good comic book must possess some notable quality of paneling in order for it to be considered a fine example of its medium.
Here are the stories I read in Strahan's Best... anthology this week:
Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9), by Caitlin R. Kiernan -- 5 stars. Another stunning Murder Ballad from Kiernan, this one magically ties a strange UFO into a woman's building impulse to murder.
Red Dirt Witch, by N.K. Jemisin -- 4 stars. A period piece: a black family faces white oppression in the Jim Crow South, but the neat fantasy element is the oppression manifests itself in the form of a fae witch whose powers must be countered by the earthier witchcraft of the young girl of the family.
Red as Blood and White as Bone, by Theodora Goss -- 5 stars. Another excellent fairy tale re-telling. On the eve of World War One, in the decadence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a scullery maid in the service of a local baron encounters a mysterious foreign woman who is in many ways the incarnation of the maid's interest in fairy tales. The story skips easily along in an engaging narrative while suggesting incalculable depth. Finely balanced.
Terminal, by Lavie Tidhar -- 4 stars. In a sometimes muddled tale, several protagonists float along in space pods toward a "terminal" station on Mars. The story is interesting mainly because of its play on the word "terminal", but the slipperiness of the narrative almost makes it crumble into meaninglessness. It's a tricky thing to accomplish, but for me, Tidhar just did make it make sense.