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#16: Miniatures by John Scalzi. 3.5. Collection of very, very short works, nearly all in that very distinctive Scalzi style. Amusing (although not necessarily particularly memorable).

#17: Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History Ed by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke. 3. A very mixed bag. Nothing terrible, but many of the stories are fairly forgettable or underwhelming. A few gems really shine, though.

#18: Jacaranda by Cherie Priest. 4. Creepy and compelling, this is The Shining transplanted to the Weird West.

#19: Final Girls by Mira Grant. 4. A virtual reality therapy session goes terribly, terribly wrong in this deconstruction of horror tropes. It's smart, fast-paced, and shiver-inducing.

#20: Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher. 3.5. Collection of Harry Dresden short stories, all about looking after River Shoulders' son. The poor kid just draws bullies like a magnet draws iron filings. Your opinion of these will be determined by your opinion of the rest of the Dresden Files. They're fairly representative of the earlier monster-of-the-week books.

#21: The Scar by China Mieville. 4. Press-ganged by pirates, unlikely companions find themselves trapped in a floating city on a mission that may reshape the world. Lush, cynical, intricately constructed, and incredibly vivid.

#22: Against All Silence by E.C. Myers. 4. Teenage hacker takes on global telecom, while wondering if his girlfriend can actually be trusted. I liked very much how when people take physical damage, they actually suffer the repercussions that come with it. On the other hand, you may find this uncomfortably close to what may actually be happening--Myers is one of the authors who have gotten lapped by reality in the last six months.

#23: The End of All Things by John Scalzi. 4. A stirring wrap-up to the Old Man's War universe. Similar to The Human Division, this is composed of a series of interlocked short stories from some very different viewpoints. One thing I really appreciated--when it comes time for the fate of the universe to be decided, all the people in the room happen to be female identifying, save one, who's only there as an observer. It's not at all artificial or forced--they're just the ones who are left standing over the course of the last four books, with the authority to make the necessary decisions. It's in no way pointed out or remarked upon. I only realized it in retrospect. And it's delightful.

#24: Beauty by Robin McKinley. 3. A straightforward telling of Beauty and the Beast. It's not even a retelling. There's no twist here. What punches other versions have are pulled. (No one tries to seriously convince Beauty not to go back, there's no rival love interest, the Beast's curse is only vaguely described and has no irony. There's not a whole lot of tension, given that you know exactly what's going to happen.) It's pretty, but kind of tame. I'd heard good things about this for years, and I'm frankly a little underwhelmed.
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