I found Neither Here Nor There disappointing. I’ve only read a little of Cat Rambo’s work before, but I found it largely engaging and fun. This collection, on the other hand, I found much more mundane. Not in the worlds they describe – though most of those are fairly contemporary – but because so little happens. I like subtle stories, but I do want them to describe something meaningful – a change, an event, a happening. Many of the stories here, especially in the early part of the book, don’t seem to have much point. Little happens, and quite a few don’t have endings that provide any kind of resolution.
I’ve never read Rambo’s Beasts of Tabat, but a large amount of the material here is drawn from that world. If you’re a fan, you’ll likely enjoy that. For me, it didn’t provide any added value, but except for one story – a dry history of Tabat – it didn’t detract from the story. However, I didn’t find that this taste of Tabat whetted my appetite, and eventually found myself thinking ‘Please, not another Tabat story.’
For all that the flat character arcs suggest an inclination toward subtlety, Rambo’s morals are fairly heavy-handed. Readers will have no difficulty spotting good and bad, right and wrong. While I agreed with many of her views, I often wished for a little more gray, a little more dimension in the villains. Even the heros frequently made decisions for which there was little foundation, and that smelled too strongly of authorial direction. This wasn’t helped by sentences that at times tends toward the convoluted. There were times when I had to actively parse the sentences to make sense of them.
I was expecting more from this journey into Rambo’s worlds. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be visiting often. I recommend it mainly for fans of Tabat.
The best stories were:
- Pippa’s Smiles – A vaguely dissatisfied man decides to leave his wife behind.
While one of the heavy-handed stories in the collection, and one in which the authorial machinery is not well covered, it largely works.
- Karaluvian Fale – A noblewoman on the brink of bankruptcy tries everything to keep up a facade of success. While again heavy-handed, the characters are well-drawn and engaging.
- The Subtler Art – A wizard and an assassin argue about whose art is more subtle. There’s not much surprise here, but it’s nice to follow along.
- Clockwork Fairies – A member of the nobility tries to encourage his beloved to give up her hobby. Another in the heavy-handed set, and it leaves some of the most interesting aspects unexplored, but it has a pleasant steampunk feel to it.
- Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart – One human and one android Pinkerton agent search out an inventor in her quirky house. The characters and relationships in this story are by far the strongest in the book, with interesting action to boot.
- The Wizards of West Seattle – An apprentice magician tries to prove himself. One of the many stories in the collection that could have used more character depth, but the overall structure works well.
I received a free copy of this
book in exchange for an honest review.