Review: Alias Space and Other Stories by Kelly Robson

Author: Kelly Robson
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Released: March 31st, 2021Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Assault, misogyny, sexual assault

4 kitties

Alias Space and Other Stories is an anthology that collects the best short stories written by Kelly Robson. They are mostly science fiction short stories, which admittedly is half the reason this anthology caught my eye (that and the amazing cover).

There are fourteen short stories in this anthology, including: Two-Year Man, A Study In Oils, Intervention, La Vitesse, So You Want To Be A Honeypot, Two Watersheds, The Desperate Flesh, Alias Space, Skin City, Waters of Versailles, What Gentle Women Dare, The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill, We Who Live in the Heart, and A Human Stain.

“And I fervently believe that humanity will survive to the stars.”

Two-Year Man
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Two-Year Man was an interesting choice for the first short in this collection, and I’m not going to lie; it did leave me a little bit concerned about the rest of the anthology. This story covers one make and his adopted children and the wife who didn’t want them. It’s a bit of a hard read and leaves a raw impression behind.

“The baby was the best thing he’d ever found.”

A Study In Oils
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

A Study in Oils was a brilliant read and probably my favorite out of the entire collection. Yes, I really do mean that. I wish that the anthology had either started or ended on this note, but it is what it is. I love the level of detail in this narrative and wish that there was more.

“I’d do anything to keep you alive, kid, and I don’t even like you.”

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I’m not sure how to feel about this one, truth be told. I sort of love the message here that humanity needs to learn to be more compassionate once again, but it also hurts to think that this is a lesson that needs to be taught.

“She said there was no better medicine for grief than children, so I found a creche tucked away behind a water printing plant and signed on as a cuddler.”

La Vitesse
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

La Vitesse is perhaps my second or third favorite short story in this anthology, and I adored how different it was from everything else that I have read.

“Bea had seen the first dragon in 1981, two years back, when she was bringing home abuse full of soccer players after a tournament in Jasper.”

So You Want To Be A Honeypot
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I went into this one wanting to love it; I really did. The title is clever and plays with classic spy tropes, as does most of this short, come to think of it. Mostly, I just had trouble getting into the narrative on this one.

“When she was a girl, Vasilisa wanted to be a sniper.”

Two Watersheds
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I love how much of this story revolved around virtual reality, and yet it had such a very different take on it than I’ve seen before.

“The illusion of being in the Athabasca valley was flawless as a full-sensory gaming surround, but all-the-more-perfect because it was far, far from perfect.”

The Desperate Flesh
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The Desperate Flesh is a title that admittedly left me very concerned, but it was a pretty solid read on the whole. Not my favorite, but far from a bad read either.

“She’d expected to be busy in her new job but hadn’t expected to face a scandal right away”

Alias Space
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Alias Space is the title story for this anthology, and frankly, I’m surprised that it wasn’t at the end, where most anchor shorts are. Oh well, I wasn’t going to complain about its appearance here. Though honestly, maybe having it be the opening was a good idea (I still don’t love what they went with for an opener, sorry). My only regret is that the ending just seemed to…appear. Like there could have (and should have) been more to it, and there just wasn’t. Then again, that does sort of fit the theme of it all…

Twenty years, Agnes thought. Rain trickled down her face, acrid with run-off from her hair spray. I want twenty more.

Skin City
Rating: ⋆ ⋆

I’m not sure if this is the intention or not, but Skin City made me deeply uncomfortable. The whole intentionally misgendering just rubbed the wrong way – even if that was actually the whole point of the story. I’m not sure. I assume yes?

“For Kass, the worst thing about being in jail wasn’t the food.”

Waters of Versailles
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I was surprised by the Waters of Versailles, and not just because the title itself was pretty interesting. It was clever and quippy and probably one of the better stories in this anthology.

“After two winters at Versailles, Sylvain was well acquainted with the general passion for powder.”

What Gentle Women Dare
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

How do you think a sex worker would react were she to meet the actual devil? Well, wonder no more, for that is exactly what happens in What Gentle Women Dare. This is another highlight of the anthology and absolutely worth the read.

“Her immortal soul had long since drowned in rum and rotted under gobs of treacle toffee.”

The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill
Rating: ⋆

Warnings: Rape, murder

I learned the hard way a few anthologies ago that when an individual short story comes with a content warning, it’s probably better to consider skipping. In this case, I don’t feel bad about doing so. Other reviewers have reinforced that the VERY harsh content warning was an accurate one, and it should be skipped if these themes are even remotely upsetting to readers.

We Who Live in the Heart
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

This was an overall interesting read, one set in a far-fetched future that was actually somewhat hard to picture, despite all of the descriptions.

“The first thing newbies notice is how strange it smells.”

A Human Stain
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I didn’t know this before picking up the anthology, but A Human Stain is an award-winning horror short story. No wonder it was such a good read! Terrifying but brilliant. This is the perfect conclusion for the anthology, though I do kind of wish that it was higher up in the collection.

“If the best cure for a broken heart was a new young love, Helen suspected hers would be soon mended.”

Thanks to Subterranean Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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