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I picked this up due to the Brandon Sanderson novella, but was excited to read all 4 stories.
“A Fire in the Heavens” (Mary Robinette Kowal): This is technically considered a long novelette, although it is almost as long as Sanderson’s novella. Apparently she usually writes Jane Austin style novels where the women are magic users. This story centers on a female priest (Katin) who commissions a ship to take her across the world to find the land of her ancestors. The first half is fairly academic with a focus on culture, but then it turns into a fairly tense action-adventure romp as she realizes that there was a reason her ancestors left this land. 4 stars.
“I.E.Demon” (Dan Wells): Short story by an author who writes young adult sci-fi and thrillers. This is a fast-paced and amusing military sci-fi story about testing a new “device” that destroys hidden explosives. That device is actually a demon, which escapes during the test drive and starts wreaking havoc. Enjoyable but maybe a little too lightweight, both in length and tone. 3.5 stars.
“An Honest Death” (Howard Taylor): Short story by an author who writes comedic sci-fi, and wow this was fantastic. More dry humor than outright funny, but the tone was perfect. I don’t want to go into details too much other than to say that it stars the bodyguard of the CEO of a pharmaceutical corporation. Potential health improvements that the company is researching may be grabbing the attention of Death. Short stories don’t get much better even if this story was a tease. 5 stars.
“Sixth of the Dusk” (Brandon Sanderson): This is barely long enough to be considered a novella. Once again, I don’t want to go into details, but it involves a world of archipelagos and birds that bestow psychic-like abilities on their handlers. I do want to point out that Brandon Sanderson has stated that he thrives with long novels and that shorter works are harder for him. This baffles me as this story, Shadows for Silence, The Emperor’s Soul, Defending Elysium, and even the Infinity Blade stories to a certain extent, prove that he is a master at writing novellas. 4.5 stars.
Shadows Beneath is a great book for book nerds--present company included.
Here's how it works: Brandon Sanderson gets with his author buddies and says, "Hey guys, I want to write book about magic birds." And then they talk about his idea and turn into a story. Of course, they are recording everything they say and they transcribe their conversation. Brandon writes a rough draft of the story and brings it back to his buddies to read. With the record button pushed, they tell him what's awesome and what's not awesome and then transcribe that conversation. He writes another draft of the story, takes careful notes of his changes, and produces a final version. The final version, a really fabulous short story called "Sixth of the Dusk" is published and put at the front of the book. In the back of the book are all the different conversations and drafts that led to the final product.
Then each of his author buddies go through the same process, put their finished products in the front of the book and the production notes at the end.
The finished result is Shadows Beneath, and it's the best peak under the tent I've ever seen regarding the writing process and what goes into producing an awesome story. The four final, polished short stories in Shadows Beneath are worth the price of admission alone. They were all very entertaining. But the really cool stuff is in the back, where we get to watch this whole process unfold from idea to finished product. I especially liked reading the cuts of the first drafts that include the cross outs and additions that the stories went through.
It's a fascinating book that goes beyond the story. Check it out, I predict you'll be as impressed as I was.
I'd listened to the Writing Excuses broadcast on it and was really curious how he/she would fix the story.
The answer: brilliantly.
Ok, really brilliantly. I'm a lawyer. You can trust me on this.
Seriously though, the podcasts were interesting, and the finished stories really pull things together. I was surprised at how strong they were.
Sixth of Dusk (Seven of Nine?) completely edits out huge hunks of story to wrap the entire theme together in a better package than where it starts. The full moon (ok, not the real name), foreshadows and completes itself. Afghanistan makes an appearance and in a way that won't make the story locked into an era or time years from now.
And Howard Taylor hits all the numbers, dropping his tag line, editing his work and showing some dramatic professionalism in how he rewrote.
Ok, so I haven't really reviewed what is going on.
Each of the stories has a beginning: a brainstorming session. They have the rough draft, edits and the final.
You can start with the final (or, you can start with the podcast, which is what I did) or you can start with the rough draft. But it makes it clear where the idea started, how it was roughed out, and just what a strong edit and feedback group response can do for a story.
The moment the price came down below my "I won't buy that" price (I'm annoyed at the extra price for digital works I can't resell, don't really own and that don't have the price of print -- I'm willing to pay for editing, just annoyed at digital works that cost more than paper), I bought it and I'm glad I did.
I bought this book because I love Brandon Sanderson's work. I was surprised to find I liked his story the least of all of them. This isn't to say his story was bad, it was very good, but the other three were better. Sanderson really shines in longer work he needs time to stretch his legs (in my opinion) the story in this book reads like a GREAT intro to a much longer book... and I really hope that is the case. I haven't read the bonus material but I have been listening to the podcast from whence this book originated.
I think if you're an aspiring writer, or already a writer, getting a peek behind the curtain will be very helpful. Also this is a good way to get an introduction to three other writers of equal skill to Sanderson.
This is less of anthology than a writing tool, anyway. The idea is that you read the stories and then see how the authors came up with them. A kind of brainstorming to editing kind of thing. This is definitely the first time I’ve EVER seen anything like this and it is great! I loved seeing how things went from brainstormed ideas to a rough story to an edited story with the help of discussion and critique. The stories, of course, are great. But I think that seeing the process is ACTUALLY the more valuable thing here. I would suggest this book to anyone who is an aspiring writer who likes science fiction and fantasy. This is a really great look into the process that is normally glossed over by other writing books.
The short stories were good. I wasn't a huge fan of the writing portion where the authors were sitting around tossing ideas back and forth - and then the books being changed per a new revision or old revision etc... Once I read a short story - I was happy with it and didn't feel the need to go back and read it again to see how it had evolved and changed with input from the different authors. Personally I would have preferred to have longer stories instead of repeatedly having different versions in the book.
This book is a collection of great short stories by talented and well-known authors. And it is more than that. The authors have allowed the reader to experience their writing process by sharing their plot and world-building brainstorming, their rough drafts, and revision process. I enjoyed the stories. Aspiring authors will love and learn from reading this book!
I really liked this book. The stories were compelling and fun to read. They grabbed you right from the start. Each was different from the other. Added to the stories were the brain storming and critique of the story concepts, first drafts, and the final edits. This was a great look at the development process on writing short stories. I really loved it!
Very fun to see how the professionals take an idea from concept to finished short story, and the end product in each case is better than you might expect, especially considering the authors brainstorm their ideas in the podcast.
Examples of the revision process from accomplished writers is the most valuable and least common tool I've seen for the teaching of writing. Creating this book was a brilliant idea. I'd love to seem more books like this.