Thursday, June 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ladies of Trade Town

DISCLAIMER: one of the stories in this anthology, "Do Unto Others", is mine. I considered not reviewing the book, but the work is consistently excellent. On an ethical note, I'm going to refrain from reviewing my portion and let other reviewers speak.

An anthology's like a well-programmed radio station. Both anthology editors and program directors must consider the content flow. While the stories are not precisely alike, you've got to have a fit that keeps readers moving from one story to another without any dissonance.

The are four editors whose collections I will buy without question. Martin H. Greenberg (RIP), Marion Zimmer Bradley (RIP), Esther M. Friesner, and Lee Martindale. I have learned more about crafting short stories from just reading the works these editors have chosen than any writing class.

Ladies of Trade Town offers both reading pleasure and excellent writing examples. I'd recommend the book for teen readers and above. While the subject matter is prostitution in its various forms, there's very little erotic content.

The anthology opens with an introduction by Elizabeth Moon. I don't usually read introductions, but I've read hers twice.

  • "The Ballad of Eskimo Nell Revisited" by Jim Reader is a 'steamy' tale that should be added to steelman John Henry's Urban Legend. So, I did:

    Wikipedia entry for John Henry (Folklore)

  • "First Fruits" is Merlyn Finn's initial foray into fiction and I daresay it will not be her last. She transports us to an Asian flavored mythic future where bioengineering creates a beautifully crafted 'peach' of a love story.

  • "Dreams of Blood and Milk", Mary A. Turzillo's alternate history details rights of sex-workers who serve vampires when a wannabe actress with a past tries to find a job on Broadway.

  • "What a Man Wants" by Cecilia Tan occurs in a future Japan where wealthy men utilize robotic wives. When a corporate CEO offers one of the best WifePilots a chance to control his own wife during a strategic business deal, the pilot discovers he's in far deeper than he ever expected.

  • "A Touch of Ginger" is a short story from the world a full-length novel by Melanie Fletcher featuring Doyle and Marcott, an investigative team which spans centuries of expertise. I will never think of the phrase 'finding a stiff in a hotel' the same way again thanks to her uproarious opening. Ms. Fletcher also deserves credit for the cover art as well.

  • "Queen of Knaves" by Tracy S. Morris takes us back to high fantasy realms as the Queen of Whores must serve the Queen of Knaves in order to save their kingdom's heir.

  • "In the House of Allures" by Rob Chilson takes us to a distant future where an aging prostitute revisits her past in order to secure a better life for her daughter.

  • "Silk and Steam" by Brandie Tarvin returns us to wartime in a steampunk Europe. She ably answers a question how a woman can establish and thrive in a small town with the permission of the town's wives.

  • "Art" is a minimalist definition of what a Japanese brothel hit upon hard times does to improve their status. Gloria Oliver's got a unique gift to explain a cultural phenomenon.

  • "Do Unto Others" written by me. Feel free to add your comments if you've read it.

  • "Duty Free" by Mark Tiedemann gives food for thought about contracts and intentions. I normally yawn through legal arguments, but this story from his Secant Universe had me turning pages and wanting more from this world.

  • "Mother Laurie's House of Bliss" by Catherine Lundoff is another crime investigation tale. When a highly-placed official dies in his presence, a youth hoping for freedom from prostitution must face a magical trial.

  • "The Lady of Trade Town" is by the editor. A faithfully-wed captain about to face the front for the first time is given an extremely awkward present from his troops.

  • "The Last Virgin" by Jana Oliver takes us to a very unexpected place, Heaven, where sex-work still occurs.

  • "The Oldest Profession?" follows on a similar vein with God settling an age-old argument between Adam and Lilith. Melinda LaFevers's sense of timing and humor struck the perfect end-note for the collection.

Ladies of Trade Town is available here at HarpHaven Press's site.

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