This is… actually kind of weird. The stories “Hell Friend” and “Braiding the Ghosts” have a lot in common. So much, that I would swear they were English writing assignments where the class was given a general outline and the authors had to put their own spin on it. Neither story is bad but I do wonder if Mike Allen (who we’d like to thank for stopping by here) was keeping the authors chained in his basement (as we all know all editors do) and gave them this challenge to overcome writer’s block. I just hope he’s remembering to keep them fed and clean as authors have a tendency to stink up a place.

Hell Friend by Gemma Files

One’s enjoyment of this story is dependent on their enjoyment and familiarity of Oriental culture (specifically that of the mainland). I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures (especially to help me develop some for my WiP) and had the fortune of working with a Chinese immigrant for a few months, so I quite enjoyed this story. There are two “twists” in the plot. One is rather obvious and the reader looks forward to watching how the details play out. The other is hidden only because it is not talked about at all. I mean… imagine the movie Citizen Kane, exactly as it is, except after revealing what “rosebud” is, the movie reveals that Kane was also Count Dracula. We’re at least told that there is a mystery about a particular character but nothing else, making the reveal at the end less shocking than confusing. In the notes the author does mention that this story is a sequel of sorts to her novella ‘The Narrow World’ so it appears that being a pre-existing fan helps one to have a full appreciation.

Now because this is II, I must quote 2 things. First up is from the story itself.

Didn’t matter, any of it: It was like Twilight, like Titanic, like High School Musical, 1, 2 and 3. He was Edward, she was Bella;

Then in the author’s notes she says about this story:

Other influences include vague musings about the sociological effects of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series on modern-day teen girls

I don’t know if Gemma Files has hung around here before, but all I’ll say is this: once you’ve read the story, it’s really hard not to take the two above quotes with heavy irony. In fact, I dare say that they are 100% accurate. You imps know what I mean…

Braiding the Ghosts by C.S.E. Cooney

I’m giving this one a plus, but with an asterisk. If you’ve read my first article for here then you can guess what bugged me in this story. To use terms from Lewis’ The Four Loves, part of me is tired of always having ‘love’ in modern day art be Eros. If you want to surprise me, have someone do something out of charity or friendship or even pity. That’s what bugged me most about this story. It could have done something really great that I hadn’t seen in years (except when I’m rereading Tolkien or Lewis or Chesterton or MacDonald etc). There were a lot of fascinating directions this story could have gone. Instead… we got another paranormal romance. Not a bad story in the least (even falconempress could enjoy it), but it could have been so much more.

Surrogates by Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo? Seriously? Damn! I’m jealous of this author already for one of the most kickass names I’ve ever seen. What’s worse, there’s no notes at the end telling us whether this is a guy or girl or if they’ve done anything else… for all we know Mike got the most badass feline alive to write for him. Heck, I’m wondering if sansafro187 wrote for Clockwork Phoenix because that sounds like his pen name.

As for the story itself, I’m going to give it a minus, but with another asterisk. Why? Because I think the reader is supposed to hate the story. It’s kind of like grading 1984, aren’t you supposed to hate the plot and the characters and the ending etc etc? Isn’t that the goal of the story? I’m not sure what this story’s goal was, but it is the most debate-provoking tale I’ve seen in CP3 so far. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s a pretty good method for judging how compatible you are with someone. I find the story to be quite dystopian, but some might find it utopian, even hopeful. Obviously I wouldn’t enjoy spending much time around anyone like that. It is one of the best dating aids I’ve ever seen – break up with anyone who disagrees with you on this story, because – trust me – it won’t work out.

All in all, I’d say these 3 stories again recommend the collection. There will be a bit of a break as I steel myself for another round with Twilight & Philosophy but the CP3 reviews will continue (probably immediately as therapy).

Also, I have been remiss, here is the official site should anyone be interested in getting this collection (coming in July) or the earlier 2.

Tagged as:


  1. Asahel on 15 May 2010, 14:33 said:

    Something tells me I would’ve loved Citizen Kane even more if he really had been Count Dracula.

  2. Mumbling Sage on 16 September 2010, 21:11 said:

    Cat Rambo is (spoiler alert for those who enjoy the mystery?) a woman, and the managing editor of Fantasy Magazine. She appears all over, though, in all genres, and in semipro or even fan markets as well as the professional ones, which always strikes me as pretty cool.

    Normally I just lurk around this site, but I just finished reading this anthology myself so I felt driven to comment. Even if I am terribly late.

  3. Nate Winchester on 9 July 2011, 11:25 said:

    Normally I just lurk around this site, but I just finished reading this anthology myself so I felt driven to comment. Even if I am terribly late.

    Did you end up liking the anthology? Feel free to add your own thoughts on the stories here and there.

  4. instagram online on 13 October 2018, 07:53 said:

    Thank you for sharing the reviews! I’m looking for this.