Even Greater Mistakes by Charlie Jane Anders
Titan Books, pb, £8.09
Reviewed by John Dodd
When reviewing anthologies, the problem is that it’s impossible to write something concise that manages to encompass all the stories in the book, and you don’t want to miss anyone out. When the anthology is all one persons work, it becomes easier.
Or so you’d think…
These are nineteen different stories that run the gamut of styles and subjects from time travellers who might not be time travellers to mystical fights between mythical creatures and cities that now lay underwater where once they were high and dry.
There were a few that stood out more than others, and in particular, these.
Fairy Werewolf vs Vampire Zombie, where the setting was a bar out in the middle of nowhere that plays host to those of a more supernatural persuasion. When fights go down in a normal bar, there’s normally blood and teeth everywhere, but rather than leaning into the supernatural nature of the combatants, instead, the bar owner decides to have them sing to find out who the winner is.
Six Months, Three Days, where two people can see the future. However, where one sees only their own, inevitable future, the other sees all the different paths and how they will change everything, allowing them to choose the future they want to experience. Both characters know that they will meet at some point, but when they do, is there a way they can find a common path in what they know to be true, or does destiny not allow anyone to truly hold sway over their future? It’s easy to see how this won a Hugo; it doesn’t shy from the nature of relationships and the sure and certain knowledge that even if you know what’s going to happen, it might not be enough for you to avoid what’s coming.
As Good as New. A cautionary tale on wishes and how they can be twisted, even by the person who makes them, to mean something far different to what was the original thought. In a refreshing change, this was not the usual trope where people made stupid or greedy wishes, but instead, they really thought out what it was to have those wishes and how they would guard and use that power, not only for themselves but for others.
The Time Travel Club. For me, this was by far the greatest of the stories presented, a tale that begins with the possibility of several people coming together to form a club for time travellers, except that none of them are time travellers; it’s just an expansive form of Live Action Role Playing. Until one day, a real Time Traveller does turn up, and with their arrival, everything about the club and what it means, to the role it will play in the future, is turned upon itself. The ending was both uplifting and encouraging, which is always welcome in these dark times.
The stories range from a few pages to near novelette in size, and by equal measure, the depth to which you can sink into each of them varies. While some of them pass on fleeting points, others dare to look at subjects that many would shy away from, but with every story, there is a foreword from the author, and she discusses the thoughts she had before writing and has appropriate content warnings for everything that is in the story.
What I loved about this book was the variety; there wasn’t a link from one story to the next, no way in which one was similar to another. Each of them was a new reading experience in and of itself. There wasn’t any recycling of ideas, and everything was told through a clear lens, rather than seeking to obfuscate through large words and over ornate prose. There will be something in this book for everyone, and the title, well, the only even greater mistake I can see would be if you didn’t get this.
Would recommend it to readers who are fond of stories like Station Eleven and The Wayfarers saga by Becky chambers.