The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons (#3 of 4), edited by Paula Guran

My Copy: 9780762449378 (image courtesy amazon.com)

Part 1 review here. Part 2 review here.

So, the third part of this book is a mixed bag of flavors and tastes. This is where some of that “personal preference” comes into play. but with so much variety there’s something for everybody to enjoy:

***

“The Big Sky,” by Charles de Lint

A musician named John finds a young woman hanging out in his house, and she’s just as surprised to find him there (though not quite for the same reason, as he will come to understand). After an accident, he finds himself wandering, noticing that his senses are going, and he’s falling into despair. But the young woman has been trying to let him know the truth, to tell him what’s gone wrong and how he can better himself. This story is his journey on Earth and yet in the beyond, too.

I think I like this story best of all in this portion of the book. What happens when you can’t let yourself move on from this Earth? Do you linger or disappear into nothing? I loved the questions this brought up–we are John in a way, trying to figure things out and doing it our way.

Worth a read. It made me smile and hurt at the same time.

“Elegy for a Demon Lover,” by Sarah Monette

I get the impression from the story intro that the Kyle character has been around, probably in books or other short stories. This one’s a story of instant attraction, and of Kyle losing himself more and more in a relationship with what he perceives to be a demon…and what he’s going to do about it.

I think this is a good story all around. It reminds me of less-supernatural stories of people who have charged into relationships with rose-colored glasses (and completely drunk upstairs to boot). But throw in this mysterious figure and wow–how does one get themselves out of this situation. Of course, once the reveal happens…well, I’m not spoiling it. Read away, read away.

“And the Angels Sing,” by Kate Wilhelm

This wasn’t one of my favorite stories, but it does bring up something interesting: if someone in the media was the first to find an angel, what would they do? In our jaded times, it’s easy to think “tabloid sensation,” but who knows? What if the protagonist is an editor that’s been everywhere and seen most anything and just wants to finish his career quietly without all the hoopla? But he’s in the media, and this is a story…

I admit the question’s a good one, and when he brings in a photojournalist he works with, things get really interesting. I liked the editor character, and got to enjoy what was in his head, I’ll give it that.

Still, worth a shot.

“The Goat Cutter,” by Jay Lake

Part of me couldn’t stand this story, but another part of me couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Lake’s story is easily the grossest one in this collection, not just for content–which is shudder-worthy–but the characters themselves are despicable. You have two boys who hang with an older man who lets them drink and help him kill goats and such. Why the man’s doing this is hard to say, but the boys notice the writing on the broken-down bus in the yard, and that they’ve never seen the old man even open the doors.

I don’t want to spoil what it’s all leading to, and though part of me doesn’t want to read it again, the other part of me knows I might’ve missed something due to the shock value and will anyway just to make sure I got it right.

If you don’t mind a gore-and-horror story, this one’s for you.

“Spirit Guides,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I felt for the main character, Kincaid, in this one. A man who sees death all the time, and is able to see the perpetrator from the crime scenes, but never gets to stop what’s happened. He’s spent years moving around trying to help and moving on again before people’s suspicions get aroused. He’s weighted down by this, but there’s a force propelling him to continue, as if he’s missed someone–or something.

Kincaid is a bit complicated, but worth reading. What would one do if we had the “gift” he has? Would we smoke 3 packs a day and be stupid with our health, too, or what? I like stories that make me think, and when you get to the end…

Nope, not spoiling it. I’ll let you read it (hee hee).

“Demons, Your Body, and You,” by Genevieve Valentine

This wasn’t a story I was expecting, but I think we’ve all seen this before (minus the demon element, though any father with a knocked up daughter would insist otherwise). A teenager gets pregnant by a demon and the way people react to her in her rather religious community is amusing and nauseating at the same time. The story’s told from the Point of View of a girl who knows her a little and they become friendly as things go on, and as people get worse and worse toward her.

There are lots of parallels between how we treat pregnant teens in society, and then the thoughts of the teen girl at the heart of it. I will keep reading this one, that’s for sure. It grew on me to become one of my favorites in this collection. I recommend this story to anyone.

“The Monsters of Heaven,” by Nathan Ballingrud

I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. It takes its time and you really get to know the characters, that’s for sure. The angel element was hard to pin down until it got rolling, but it was there all the same. But the angel element is background compared to the husband and wife who have lost a child due to a kidnapping. The story’s largely about them and their struggles, their emotions, and then when the dad finds an angel and brings it home…things start to change.

This story’s quite the character study, and you get some bits and pieces of what happened the day their son was taken from them. I think there’s something to it, but it may take another read or two to see how much I like it or respect it.

***

Like I said, some personal hit-or-miss feelings. What might be my cup of tea might not be yours, and vice versa. I’m likely to keep this collection when all is said and done.

Part 4 coming in a couple of days–the last part.

Happy reading!

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