Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Reviewed Author of the Week - L.J. Cohen

Note: Even if I really like a book, I still get in my shots. It's all about loving an author. If I didn't love them, I wouldn't read or review the book, but I reserve the right to take those shots.

Stranger Worlds Than These: Short StoriesStranger Worlds Than These: Short Stories by L.J. Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Buy at Amazon

This collection of seven stories is an easy read, particularly because the author has a smooth way with words. Her characters are well-drawn, the reader can discern the problem, and see there are choices to be made.

This mix of science fiction and fantasy reveal a very talented writer. I happen to know LJ Cohen has a number of books out and is also a successful editor. I can't fault these stories in any way, except for one thing--a personal peeve.

I may be the only person on the planet who has this problem. So take it for what it is. Just my thoughts. Nobody else will care and, if they read the following, many others will promptly tell me I just don't get it, I'm a mean bitch, or I don't know how to read. That all may be true. Okay, you've been warned that I'm going to be contrary.

My main problem with short stories of this type is that they STOP rather than END. What does that mean? Take, for example, the first story, "Diversity." It brought us along with the main character as she discovers she has a purpose to her life she didn't expect. It's not a spoiler to say she is a mixed blood human/alien. She had been brought up to believe that her grandparents had left their home planet of Tevhun to better their life, much like immigrants do today. The first generation intermixed with humans and Varna was the resulting half-breed, with a foot in two worlds. That's a great setup. Ultimately, Varna goes to Tevhun, presumably to assist the Terran delegate to negotiate various treaties between the two worlds.

Any more of this would be a spoiler, so I'll skip to the chase. At the end, Varna has a choice. But we, the readers, aren't told what she chooses to do. The story STOPS. If it were to END, we'd learn what Varna decides, then assume other things go on in the future. They can be saved for a sequel.

Literary short stories stop this way most of the time. But this book is science fiction. The purpose of SF is to extrapolate a future. I would feel better served if the author gives me an idea of the continuation. Essentially, this is a cliffhanger. A device used by authors who think by leaving the reader in the air, it will force them to buy book 2. Sorry, but I don't buy book 2 unless book 1 has a satisfactory ending of its own. Short stories, by their nature, never have sequels. Don't leave a cliffhanger. You leave this reader frustrated no matter how well the stories are written. And these stories are really good. I just needed another sentence or two for each story to be a full meal and not an appetizer without the anticipated meal.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts about stories that stop rather than end. I struggle with this in some of my own stories as well, more with the question of what is a "satisfying" ending. I'm not sure I have a clean answer. Maybe some stories aren't meant to end. Any story someone tells about my life on planet earth so far doesn't really have a clean ending. That will come inside a coffin, I suppose, so maybe sometimes we just stop. That gets back to my original comment: maybe the key is whether the stop (or end) point satisfies the reader. I'm still trying to figure that one out.