Alex Shvartsman (ed.) – Unidentified Funny Objects 2

alexshvartsman-ufo2UFO2 is the second annual collection of humorous science fiction and fantasy short stories. Inside you’ll find:

– A golem on an interstellar cruise ship
– Dragon-taunting for fun and profit
– Time travel gone really wrong
– Cubicle farm wizardry
– Alien behemoths in Central Park

And much, much more!

Last year I read and enjoyed the first Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. When Alex Shvartsman approached me about reviewing the second volume, I immediately said yes, curious to see what he’d found this year. I wasn’t disappointed. There are fewer stories than last year, though they are longer and there are repeat appearances and new big names. I had a great time with the book, but there were some stories that didn’t work as well for me as others did. 

The ones that didn’t work for me just didn’t grab me or their central conceit didn’t click with me. In the case of Vogt’s Girl with the Dagon Tattoo it’s that to me the connection to H.P. Lovecraft only became clear after the mention Chtulhu and I wasn’t familiar with the story referenced by the title as I’ve not read Lovecraft. All of this meant that the clue to Vogt’s story went right past me. Konstantine Paradias’ How You Ruined Everything had a fun premise, namely time travel gone wrong, but it was written in the second person present. And that is the one narrative mode that I always struggle with. White’s The Wiggy Turpin Affair was a fun story, considering its Jeeves and Wooster vibe, but I struggled to wrap my head around the resolution of the story and it left me a little underwhelmed. All of these are highly personal reactions – the stories aren’t badly written at all – they just didn’t connect with me. My favourite stories all did connect with me, mostly due to their narrators just clicking on my head. I’ll go into my favourite stories individually.

Ken Liu – The MSG Golem
I know many people are huge fans of Liu’s short fiction and I am one of them. Of all his stories I’ve read there are only one or two I didn’t love, merely liked, so it’s no surprise to find him among my favourites once again. I enjoyed Rebecca’s voice immensely. She’s a fun and witty ten-year-old, with a delightful mixture of world-weary cynicism pre-teens can display mixed with boundless enthusiasm to throw herself in new things whole-heartedly. I love Liu’s gentle mocking of the prejudices that are oft-held about Chinese and Jewish parents. Behind the fun there is a story about family and parental love, which I found very touching.

Matt Mikalatos – A Stiff Bargain
Mikatalos is one of the returning authors from the first volume and he’s stuck with his protagonist from that volume’s story, the vampire Isaac Van Helsing, yes the son of that Van Helsing. The second story in which Chtulhu makes an appearance and this time my lack of grounding in his mythos wasn’t a problem. I thought it was a very fun story and one filled with great secondary characters, such as Isaac’s landlady Mother Holmes and his ghostly former servant Richard. What amazed me most about the story was that Chtulhu knew how to use a phone and how to prank call!

M.C.A. Hogarth – Improved Cubicle Door
Now this is how you make office life interesting. Just give everyone a limited amount of mana and a spell book and of you go. A mixture between a scathing commentary on cubicle office life and an exciting DnD campaign, I had a blast with Hogarth’s story.

Jody Lynn Nye – Insider Information
It shouldn’t be surprising that Insider Information is one of my favourites, since in my review for the first volume I said of Nye’s story that I hoped she’d write more in this setting and perhaps even a long form story. Well, long form this is not, but it does mark the return of D.S. Dena Malone and her symbiotic alien guest, K’t’ank. And like last time I adored this story. I just love the idea behind the link between Malone and K’t’ank and the way Nye elaborates on it; the having to adapt her way of reading to let him watch TV, the way he’s always listening in. Coupled a great crime to solve, it makes for a fantastic story and I really hope, once again, that there will be more in the future.

James Beamon – Class Action Orc
Beamon writes a great story featuring a likeable bad guy protagonist. I really liked the voice of the narrator, who is wry and unapologetic for his nature. His rivalry with the prosecutor, who is a High Elf (naturally) is very fun and they’re given a great case to battle it out over in court. With as a star witness the talking sword Cleave. I swear Cleave himself is worth reading this story; he made me laugh so hard. He reminded me of the talking sword in Baldur’s Gate II only smarter. Class Action Orc had me laughing out loud and I really enjoyed it. This is another setting and protagonist I’d not mind reading more of.

Overall, Unidentified Funny Objects 2 was another fun read and a good addition to the series. I look forward to seeing how Shvartsman will expand on it next year in UFO 3.

This book was provided for review by the editor.