Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review of "Unidentified Funny Objects 2"

The second annual scifi/fantasy humor anthology edited by Alex Shvartsman contains
19 fun stories. Shvartsman is quite the humorist in his own right, so
it must have been hard to keep from throwing one in himself. Not every
story in the collection is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but humor is
subjective, and this reader did utter some chuckles, giggles, and a
few outright guffaws.

"The MSG Golem" by Ken Liu was yet another golem story, but this time it was seasoned with an added soupcon of hot and sour Chinese culture and cuisine.

In "Service Charge" by Esther Friesner, a wizard works hard to insult a dragon to get it to blow itself up before it can fly off to destroy a neighboring kingdom. A fair approximation to the US and UK visa systems.

"Item Not As Described" by J. W. Alden is a hilarious parody of how Craigslist might work in the Cthulhu mythos. No dissatisfied customers here.

"Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy" by Jim C. Hines has a superhero getting cancer, but he's impervious to treatment. Meanwhile, his cocky tumor really sticks it to him. The author dedicated this story to Jay Lake, who died recently.

"How to Feed Your Pyrokinetic Toddler" by Fran Wilde is the first one that made me laugh out loud ("Get a metal spoon and bowl (no plastic!)").

"A Stiff Bargain" by Matt Mikalatos features a relative of Van Helsing the famous vampire hunter. He's got a deal with the town to keep out the supernatural riffraff, but it's a handful when a new cult moves in.

In "The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo," Josh Vogt introduces a girl who wants a tattoo with unmentionable powers. Although she doesn't possess enough skin area, she manages to talk her demonic ink slinger into a condensed version--something tasteful that fits on the ankle, I assume.

"Improved Cubicle Door" by M.C.A. Hogarth takes us to an office fueled by magic. One of the employees has been moonlighting for the competition. We eventually find it's because he just wanted a door instead of a cubicle.

In "On Safari," Mike Resnick offers a Robert Sheckley-esque tale about the lucky winners of an all-expenses paid safari to the planet Selous. Unfortunately, it's the tour guide's first trip.

"How You Ruined Everything" by Konstantine Paradias has the perfect title. Much better than "The Time Machine," and funnier. I always loved those scenes of Rod Taylor curiously stopping and sampling the different ages. Flash, sun, flash, dark...Oops, Morlocks.

"Insider Information" by Jody Lynn Nye seemed more like a mystery than a comedy, about why the CEO of an Oculus Rift-like virtual reality company decided to off himself. Nonetheless, it was exciting, and we enjoyed the parasitic alien character, K't'ank, who had not one, but two apostrophes in his name.

"The Haunted Blender" by K.G. Jewell. Hey, Colorado's most famous edible export gets a mention! This one had me salivating and wishing I had a bowl of cool, refreshing gazpacho, in spite of the spectral complications involved with the ingredients.

Ah, youth. In "The Retgun," by Tim Pratt, an otherwise charming young lady afflicted with a bad case of coprolalia shows us what it's like to be the companion to Dr. Who, er, Kirtley, trying to make the universe a better place. It's a damn wild ride, writ large by a master.

"The Diplomat's Holiday" by Heather Lindsley shows there's a little breakage when galactic diplomats cut loose on holiday after carrying the weight of the universe on their shoulders all year. I wonder if the author got this idea from Obama's Secret Service staff.

"Congratulations on Your Apotheosis" by Michelle Ann King is another "magic in the workplace" type story, but this life coach usually avoids using it, when an omniscient "assistant" shows up. She's bored, she's got time on her hands, and she *really* wants to help. Reminds favorably of "Bedazzled," one of the funniest of the funny.

"One Thing Leads to Your Mother" by Desmond Warzel opens with an officer who's fixed his broken spaceship and just needs to restart the main program, but he's forgotten his password. Can the onboard AI ("S.H.R.I.N.K") help? Of course not. But it's read "Rumpelstiltskin," so it knows a lot about good guesses.

"Class Action Orc" by James Beamon is one of several stories set in Beamon's Seven Realms world, and we would like to see more. Anglewood (Ang Ul Wud) is one heck of a jailhouse lawyer. I guess Orc is the new black.

"The Wiggy Turpin Affair" by Wade Albert White. Here we have a lady killer (not a ladykiller) coming off a job on the moon to investigate a murder PG Wodehouse-style. Dash it all, the victim refuses to stay dead, but luckily the robot butler takes the initiative.

"Hannibal's Elephants" by Robert Silverberg occupies the pole position of the anthology. I love the idea that when aliens invade Manhattan, everyone will rush to their favorite bar and "drink like mad." What else you gonna do? That's life in the Big Apple.

The book's available on Amazon in ebook or paperback.

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