“Godfall and Other Stories” brings together 23 stories written by Sandra M. Odell – many have been previously published in various venues, but there are also several new ones. The collection is edited by Cat Rambo, and I was lucky enough to score an advance reading copy.
Short version of this review: this is a fantastic collection of speculative fiction, and it’s a thrill to read.
Long version of this review: One of the (many) things that struck me as I read “Godfall and Other Stories”, is what a versatile writer Odell is. The collection includes stories of fantasy, horror, and a dollop of science fiction, and they feature a wide range of settings, moods, and characters. No matter what the setting or genre, Odell has a knack for getting under your skin, digging into the uncomfortable, sometimes painful, truths that hide beneath the surface. She deftly twists each story off-kilter, giving you an unexpected (and sometimes unsettling) point of view.
Her stories can be darkly funny, like the excellent “A Troll’s Trade”; they can squeeze your heart, like the devastating “The Home for Broken”, a story about parents, children, and hard, hard choices; and sometimes she explores ideas that strike you with sheer awe, like the fallen and decaying gods being mined for their natural resources in “Godfall”.
On every page, Odell’s writing feels rooted in real feelings, real lives, and real people. In her work, she often looks at the world from underneath – through the eyes of working people, or those who find themselves on the outside of “polite society”, or the supposedly weak and broken (who often turn out not to be as weak as you might think). She doesn’t glorify any of her characters, and no matter how fantastical the setting, her stories always feel vivid and alive.
A case in point is the harrowing, action-packed “Black Widow”, a scifi story about a squad of fighters, set in a war-torn future. Two other stories I want to mention in particular in this excellent collection are “Ink”, a powerful and uniquely imagined story about tattoos, trauma and healing; and “Good Boy”, a deeply unsettling tale about dogs and fighting, with a twist that turns the world, and what you think you understand and know, inside out and upside down.
There are a wealth of great stories here, each showcasing Odell’s fierce originality as a storyteller. For each story, she also supplies a story-note, talking about the background and inspiration for each tale. These notes are a fascinating look into the creative process, and an added bonus for the reader.
Sandra M. Odell’s work has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Ideomancer, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The Drabblecast, Pseudopod, Tales to Terrify, Cast of Wonders, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of Clarion West 2010, and associate member of the SFWA. You can find her online on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WriterOdell, and support her work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/writerodell/posts
The awesome cover art for this collection, is by British artist David Whitlam (https://www.davidwhitlam.com/)