Review: Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Genre: short stories, fantasy, science fiction, horror
Series: N/A
Pages: 331 (paperback edition)
Published: November 2011
Source: purchased
Rating: 3/5

The first non-themed collection of critically acclaimed author Sarah Monette’s best short fiction. To paraphrase Hugo-award winner Elizabeth Bear’s introduction: “Monette’s prose is lapidary, her ideas are fantastical and chilling. She has studied the craft of fantastic fiction from the pens of masters and mistresses of the genre. She is a poet of the awkward and the uncertain, exalter of the outcast, the outre, and the downright weird. There is nothing else quite like Sarah Monette’s fiction.”

I picked up this lovely book by Sarah Monette because I've read her Doctrine of Labyrinth series as well as A Companion to Wolves (with Elizabeth Bear.) She has a very lyrical style without getting too bogged down in the description. And she loves to write about queer characters. Her characters also tend to have an Otherness to them that I can identify with.

This collection grows in strength as it continues. One of the things that I disliked about the stories is that Monette's heroes and heroines didn't make the decisions I would have. They let the ills of life wash over them and just accepted their fates. The characters, and therefore stories, I liked most were the ones who showed inner strength in the face of adversity. Some crumpled up, said no to true love, let The One walk away... and I didn't enjoy those stories, which is why this collection is rated a 3.5 even though the last few stories were very strong.

Some favorites:

A Light in Troy- dark tone, sad story... but at the end of the day even the conquerors are human and this story shows how it's possible to move on from losing everything.

No Man's Land- interestingly enough, one of her darker stories in the collection. But dark in the way I like it. Without revealing too much, let's just say it's a war story and an identity story with a bit of irony thrown in.

A Night in Electric Squidland/ Impostors- she says she has more stories in her head about these guys, and I hope she writes them. A paranormal investigation duo working together? Yeah, we've seen hundreds of those. But these guys have a certain je ne sais quoi together that really makes them fun to read about.

After the Dragon - a girl gets a new lease on life after she realizes that, for better or worse, she can't be what she was before. But maybe that's a good thing.

I wanted to like Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland, but instead it became one of my least favorites of the collection. This is part of what I alluded to above and I'm not going to spoil. It's an amazing story up until the end.

Overall, Monette impressed me, partially by making the stories stronger as I read. I would recommend this to someone who already likes her writing, or to someone who likes bittersweet, cross-genre stuff. 


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