Liz Williams A Glass of Shadow e-book, 2011
I first encountered Liz Williams writing in her two volumes about running a witchcraft shop in Glastonbury, England. Yes, that Glastonbury. I wasn’t certain if I’d like her fiction so I purchased her e-book, A Glass of Shadow, a collection of 19 short stories. With a few few exceptions, the stories start and finish strong, with fascinating “what ifs” and intriguing settings.
Most stories are closer to fantasy than science fiction, although several blurr into science-fantasy, notably the first three tales and the two Martian stories. Dominant themes include personal responsibility, the power of women scorned, and the problems of central authority. There are also some environmentalist themes as well, but not overly heavy handed and they are not the sole-focus of the story. I was disappointed by the piece that took a cheap and over-used shot at the Catholic Church and Christianity in general, but even there you could read it as a warning about entrenched hierarchies that happened to use the Church as the foil (given the time and setting of the story). The two Martian stories, for example, suggest that matriarchies are perhaps not the glorious things some activists (and fantasy writers) dream of.
The collection is short, 240 pages and 19 stories, but each piece is, if not a small gem, an intriguing tale. I enjoyed the twist in the wer-hunter story. The second Martian tale gave me chills and not just because of the climatic setting of the story. I’d recommend the book for ages 13+, more for the implied ideas and situations than open violence and sex. Although dark, the book is not grim and does have a Human Wave feel overall.
In short, I enjoyed the collection for the most part, and will probably look at Williams’ longer works.