Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DMI2017: Catching Up (Weeks 17-20)

Funnily enough, I think it was just about this time of year, two years ago, that my Deal Me In reading plan went belly-up. What is it about the summer that is so fatal to DMI? Maybe it's just me, but I bet I'm not alone in this. For me, vacation and time away from my normal environments generally result in less reading, not more. And over the last two months, I've been gone from home about half of that time.

So now I am faced with playing some catch-up because I'm determined not to let my DMI roster die another ignominious death -- even cats have only a limited number of lives, and who knows if DMI is the same way?

I've decided that the best way to deal with my backlog is to do mini-reviews of the stories I'm behind on, eventually bringing my roster back to a state of currency. So here goes!

Week 17: "Combustible" by Ace Atkins
Card: Queen of Clubs
Collection: Mississippi Noir
Shelby is a high-school freshman who is trying to run away from home. Her stepfather is abusive and her mother (and pretty much everyone else) is turning a blind eye to the abuse. Lucky for Shelby, there's a leaking gas valve under her house that might just solve her problem.

Rating: 5 stars for plot and atmosphere

Week 18: "Jerusalem's Lot" by Stephen King
Card: Two of Spades (Stephen King old and new)
Collection: Night Shift
An oldie but a goodie, written in epistolary style. Charles Boone comes into possession of Chapelwaite, his family's historic estate. But of course weird things start to creep into the tale, such as things moving around inside the walls of the house (rats, surely). And there are local legends of sinister goings-on at a nearby abandoned town called Jerusalem's Lot. Charles discovers that one of his ancestors played a pivotal role in some strange events at Jerusalem's Lot, and not only that, but this ancestor may still be around almost a hundred years later.

Rating: 5 stars, mostly for the expert way King replicates the tone and style of an 18th or 19th century epistolary novel.

Week 19: "Escape to Other Worlds With Science Fiction" by Jo Walton
Card: Jack of Diamonds (Science fiction/Fantasy)
Collection: Twenty-First Century Science Fiction
This is a very short, entertaining story of alternate reality, where World War II turned out very differently. Germany and Japan are still aggressive world powers, and the U.S. is still mired in the Great Depression. Short vignettes tell the story of the desperation experienced by various individuals, with longer vignettes depicting the story of Linda Evans, a waitress working a dead-end job. One day she encounters an opportunity to improve her lot, but it would involve betraying her employers, who might be Jewish. The title of the story comes from newspaper headlines and story excerpts interspersed throughout the story. Some of the headlines are ads for science fiction books written by names such as Asimov and Heinlein.

Rating: 3 stars; I liked this story and found it pretty creative -- but then again I'm a sucker for tales of alternate history. However, I didn't quite "get" the story, and I felt that it wasn't actually a complete story, not really going anywhere.

Week 20: "Man of All Work" by Richard Wright
Card: Five of Hearts (Mississippi authors)
Collection: Eight Men
An interesting story from one of the more widely-known authors in the pantheon of Mississippi writers. Carl and Lucy are a black couple with two small children, and they are worried about being behind on their house payments. There's no prospect of things getting better anytime soon, because Lucy is on bed rest after the birth of their second child, and Carl can't find work despite being skilled as a cook. Against Lucy's wishes, Carl decides to dress up in her clothes and apply for a job as a maid with a white family. What starts out as a light, amusing, and intriguing premise for a story suddenly turns dark and complex as Wright skillfully explores deeper issues of race, class, and sex.

Rating: 5 stars; this was a fascinating and compelling story, delivering much more to think about than I thought it would at first glance. Plus, it's written entirely in dialogue, so that's another interesting angle.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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