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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Short Story Saturday: Life Sentence by Kelley Armstrong

"Life Sentence" stays true to Armstrong's writing and the world she has created in the Women of the Otherworld series.  In it, Daniel Boyd, a wealthy -- and arrogant -- Sorcerer-member of an influential Cabal.  When Daniel is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he decides he'll stop at no-lengths to find the best way to immortality -- so he funds zombie research.  Boyd doesn't care how much it costs or how many people get hurt, so long as he can live forever without a) rotting to bits, and b) being an undead puppet for his Necromancer puppet-master.

For me, the story is interesting because Armstrong manages to capture a couple of the great potentials of short stories -- that of a perfectly condensed incident, and of great poetic justice -- as well as one of the great down-falls of the short story, and that is the flatness that can make an audience apathetic.  I wasn't completely devoid of interest (I did actually like the story), but one of the things that tends to keep people from reading short stories is the lack of connection to the character(s).  There's a very limited amount of time and space in a short story to grab your reader and make them care, and this one walks a fine line if the goal is to connect to the main character.

But here, that really isn't the case.  I think the saving grace is the side characters. The story may be about Daniel Boyd, but the real star of the story is his long-suffering and moral assisstant, Shana, costarring the necromancer  Dr. Boros.  Because Daniel is an anti-hero, it would be hard to connect to him even in a longer work, so the entire story, the reader is waiting to see how it's all going to come out, and whether he's going to "get his."  Not so rootforable.  Shana, however, is very rootforable.  She is helping doing something fairly despicable, but the audience is able to connect to her and her motives, and hope more that everything will turn out well for her, and not necessarily Daniel.  Boros, though an anti-hero himself, at least brings some great interest to the story.

All in all, I think fans of Armstrong won't be disappointed, and at least will find it a nice complement to her world, if nothing else.  People unfamiliar with Armstrong will find it a nice introduction to her style, but I must way, it is underwhelming compared to her general fare, and if you like the story, her novels are well-worth looking into.

Story found in The New Dead, edited by Christopher Golden.


  1. Muh, where and when did this anthology lose the word Zombie? I have this book and mine is called: Zombie, an anthology of the new dead (or something close to that)

    I really liked this story, but I do wonder if people new to Armstrong can get into it as there's little explanation about her world

  2. I wondered that too, but I think it actually works fine that way. You are just plunged in, and maybe you're like "wtf is a cabal?" but at the same time, it's still a fairly straight-forward story, and it works on that level without the extras. Besides, you don't see a ton of Armstrong's world in the story, even though this just fits in.

  3. I LOVE this anthology (mine is called Zombie, and I think it's that in the UK as well) and Armstong's story was one of my absolute favourites. I have to read her books.

  4. I'm adding the anthology to my wishlist! Even if I have to admit I haven't read anything by Kelley Armstrong yet.

  5. I love Armstrong and I really really want to read this, but I hate buying anthologies for one story! I MIGHT read the others, but you never know...


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