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Stone Mad
by Elizabeth Bear
Tor, $14.99, 181pp
Published: March 2018

I don’t remember ever being so disappointed in a sequel before.  What happened, Elizabeth?  Karen Memory was just so much fun and it was so well-constructed with a nice plot and great characters…and this one? 

This story picks up right after the last one with Karen and her love, Priya, moving into their own home and celebrating Karen’s retirement from the brothel.  Most of the book is exposition about their relationship – does she love me for who I am – type of angst.  There is a small plot about an out-of-place creature called a Borglum.  It really feels more like a plot device than an actual plot but if you go there, then there’s no plot left to point to.

Karen and Priya are having dinner at a nice restaurant when Karen spots a couple of grifters who are preparing to get out of paying for their dinner.  But what appears to be contrived shenanigans gets a little weird and then gets weirder when a professional magician appears to confront the grifters.  And then the five of them get trapped in the building while something tries to destroy it.  It only takes a couple pages for Karen to find and confront the Borglum but the rest of the book to find a way to placate it.  And it wasn’t even really mad at any of the women; it was just confused and lonely.  It can’t even really be classed as a steampunk story as there was little here but references to gadgets.

I really do appreciate Bear’s work, much of what I’ve read has been great.  So it pains me to give a bad review but this book was simply not worth the money I paid for it.  It pains me more that I so anticipated another Karen Memery story and got this instead. ~~ Catherine Book

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