Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
December 31, 2023
“Down These Mean Streets: The Dark Side of the City,” edited by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell, Baen Books, 2024, 400 pages $28.00 (Hardcover), $9.99 (E-book)
Hard-boiled detective fiction emerged in the 1920, followed by noir crime fiction in the 1940s. While both genres maintain a mid-20th century feel, they remain popular today. It is only natural that science fiction stories in both genres would appear.
“Down These Mean Streets: The Dark Side of the City,” edited by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell, offers an example. The third collection of noir science fiction short stories compiled by the two editors, its theme is the city.
It makes sense. Classic noir and hard-boiled fiction has femme fatales and detectives. Those were the themes of the two previous anthologies, “Noir Fatale” and “No Game for Knights.” Yet both genres are primarily urban. Once you have featured the two main character types, a collection examining the natural setting of these stories is a natural.
The collection contains fourteen stories set in fourteen different cities by fourteen different authors. While united by a common theme, they all have different feels. It is roughly evenly split between fantasy and science fiction, with a variety of flavors of each.
Even within these two categories there is a lot of diversity. There are classical fantasy settings set in brooding fantasy cities, several urban fantasy stories with werewolves or vampires living among us in modern times, and a few that defy categorization. The science fiction includes alternate history, hard science fiction, and cyberpunk.
While all the stories are set in cities, these settings range from the Neverland of the fantasy cities to those set in the far future on distant (or not-so-distant) planets or space settings. Around half are set on Earth, in cities as diverse as Tokyo, Berlin, Key West and Albuquerque.
The authors participating are a mix of old and new. Half, including Larry Correia, Kacey Ezell, Laurell K. Hamilton, Robert Buettner, Steve Diamond, Patrick M. Tracy, and Griffin Barber, have been in all three collections. Others, Mike Massa, Chris Kennedy, and Hinkley Correia, have appeared in one of the two previous collections. Four others, Robert E. Hampson, Dan Willis, Casey Moores, and Marisa Wolf, are first-time contributors to this series of anthologies.
The stories are also a nice mix of old themes and new. Several are follow-ons or sequels to stories that appeared in previous collections. Others introduce new worlds and new situations. If you like fantasy and science fiction mixed with crime fiction, you will enjoy “Down These Mean Streets.”
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.