Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Dangerous Women
Part I


Edited by: George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 0 754942 9
Publication Date: 25 September 2014

Women have not had a good time in literature and until relatively recently, certainly not science fiction and fantasy, usually being confined to secondary roles. This started to change in the last thirty years. In films we had Ripley (Alien), games gave us Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and television Servalan (Blake's 7), and so it is little wonder that we should have an anthology devoted to the idea of dangerous women...

Dangerous Women: Part 1 (2014. 277 pages) is the first part of a trilogy of anthology books which takes strong women as their central theme. Commissioned by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois the book is cross genre, taking writers from many different fields. The book has an introduction by Dozois.

Part 1 consists of seven stories of various lengths and not being unkind to any of the other writers, the most sort after has to be Martin's contribution, The Princess and the Queen, or, The Blacks and the Greens (71 pages) which details the war in Westeros, known as the Dance of Dragons. The story takes place prior to the Fire and Ice books and presents, in part, a prequel to that story. It certainly explains where all the dragons went to. The story contains many of the elements we have come to expect from a Westeros story: war, death and sex.

Without the freedom that door stop sized books afford Martin's writing, this tale reads much like a history book and is presented as such. The problem with this is that there are numerous characters to get a grip on, possibly for a tale of this length a little too many. The war between two Targaryens for the Iron throne sweeps past in a blink of an eye as the war moves back and forth, often with little or no dialogue from the protagonists. It’s a little bit of heaven for Martin's fans, but I fear that a casual reader may find it a bit dry and confusing.

Raisa Stepanova, (25 pages), by Carrie Vaughn, moves us away from fantasy, back to the Soviet front lines of World War Two, with a story of a female fighter pilot, our titular heroine. Here we join her in the dangerously thrilling experience of flying a Yak (it’s a fighter plane, not an animal) against the encroaching German Luftwaffe. Raisa is a sympathetic character, loyal to her homeland, but less so to the Soviet system.

Second Arabesque, Very Slowly (28 pages), by Nancy Cress, presents a post-apocalyptic world, destroyed when a virus made the majority of women infertile. An aging nurse is our protagonist, old enough to read and realise what the world lost. In this new harsh environment there is time enough for survival, but almost none for beauty. Cress has a succinct way of capturing and juxtaposing the present with the past though the medium of a ballet theatre which her troop finds itself sheltering in, a building and all that it represents, in its faded beauty.

I Know How to Pick ‘Em (19 pages), by Lawrence Block, is an odd short story for the anthology. On one level it tells the familiar tale of a woman who wants to manipulate a man through sex. But the story is not told from her perspective, rather our protagonist is the male and we get to know a great deal about him and very little about her. Not that it’s not a good short story, it just seems the reversal of the anthologies raison d'être.

My Heart is Either Broken (23 pages), by Megan Abbott, is another story with a contemporary setting, told from the perspective of a man whose wife does something which many parents do, with devastating consequences. There is an odd printing problem with this story. Page 181 finishes with the end of a paragraph, when you turn over the page the text starts mid-sentence, or at least if this is the next sentence it’s missing a capital letter, which is a bit jarring. Abbott has constructed an intense experience as the couple have to face the disappearance of their daughter. The police suspect that the mother may have done something and we the audience, through the father's eyes start to think the same. The ending is wonderfully ambiguous, leaving us unsure of the truth and just how dangerous Lorie is.

Wrestling Jesus (31 pages), by Joe R. Lansdale, is an odd little tale of a young kid who is continually bullied, until one day an old man of nearly eighty turns up and beats the bullies to a pulp. When Marvin thinks he has bulked up enough he goes looking for the bullies only to have to be rescued by the old man again. Begging him to help him train Marvin discovers that the old man is held under a spell making him fight his adversary, for the hand of a bewitching woman.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (45 pages), by Brandon Sanderson, is a labyrinthine tale full of twists and turns. Silence runs a bar; however she also is a clandestine bounty hunter, using her bar as the perfect cover. It’s a good tale well written.

One of the things which I found surprising was how often the dangerous women existed on the periphery of the stories, with their dangerousness often inferred, rather than demonstrated. That said the interpretation of the format would have been very much up to the individual writer, reflecting their own ideas of what makes women dangerous. Being cross-genre there is some delight in reading authors who you may not have previously encountered, but it does give the overall piece a bit of an uneven feel.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Kindle edition
iTunes GB
Digital Download