I’ve been peripherally aware of Erica Satifka, though I can’t recall from where – maybe a convention, maybe I’ve read some of her work before. In any case, the name was familiar, so I was intrigued to read this collection, but I went in with no preconceptions.
The introduction by Nick Mamatas, former co-editor of Clarkesworld, was off-putting, but I ignored that, and went straight on to the stories themselves. On the plus side, I can say that Satifka had a consistent tone to the stories – a sort of dismal, dystopian feel. Virtually all were near-ish future situations of average men and women dealing with somewhat Kafka-esque societies. They seldom win, often lose, even more often don’t resolve anything at all. Many of the stories might be called mood pieces, and if so, the mood is glum.
The tone in itself didn’t bother me much. But I found too few of the pieces to have real resolutions, and just as few to have characters I cared very much about. The settings and societies were sometimes interesting, but the aspects and experiences Satifka chose to examine generally didn’t do very much for me. I found it hard to be interested in the characters, not because of who they were, but because so many seemed listless and bland.
The writing itself, on a line by line basis, is strong. It was more with the storytelling that I found fault.
The collection has attracted a fair amount of attention and accolades, so clearly others disagree. From my own reading, though, it seems Satifka will not be on my ‘to read’ list again soon.