Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear. ★★★1/2
Shoggoths in Bloom is a collection of short stories by prolific science fiction and fantasy writer Elizabeth Bear. Like any collection, there were stories I liked and stories that I didn’t care for. However, I’d say that I enjoyed the majority of stories in the collection.
At least a few of the short stories relate to full length novels or series by Elizabeth Bear. “Love Among the Talus” is the story of a princess in the world of her Eternal Skies series, a fantasy series in a setting based on Central Asia. However, it stands completely alone and you don’t at all need to be familiar with the series.
Another short story, “Cryptic Coloration” was about a mage in New York. I enjoyed it enough that I would actually really love to read a full length novel… and apparently one exists! Now there’s yet another book added to my TBR list. Possibly one of the reasons I liked it so much was that I was convinced the main character was ace (it’s not textual, but just let me have this one).
Two of the stories “Tideline” and the titular “Shoggoths in Bloom” had previously won awards. Between the two, I preferred “Tideline,” the story of an aging AI built for war raising a boy while it rusts away on a beach after the apocalypse. I’m guessing “Shoggoths in Bloom” draws on Lovecraft, but I’m not familiar with the mythos.
Other highlights include “Annie Weber,” a short but striking tale from the perspective of a barista, puzzled by the numerous people claiming to be Annie Weber. “Orm the Beautiful” is the story of the last dragon and how he responds when his hoard is destroyed. “The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe,” the story of the last man, woman, and shark left in the universe, was too conceptual for me, but I really loved these lines:
“There, under the false and dying sun, becalmed on a make-believe sea, they do not make love. She is a lesbian. He is sworn to a celibate priesthood.”
The whole trope about the last man and woman left in the world inevitably hooking up is one that’s always annoyed me, so I appreciating the way this story went.
The stories are all speculative in nature, but they span a wide variety of genres and subgenres, from alternate history to urban fantasy to science fiction mysteries. Overall, I’d say it was worth the time I put into it.