Lucy Snyder has published a number of stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, and SF genres. Her humour piece, “How to Install Linux on a Dead Badger” was once slashdotted. Sparks and Shadows collects short stories, creative non-fiction, and poetry.

Title: Sparks and Shadows

Author: Lucy A. Snyder
First published: 2007

ISBN: 978-0-9792346-1-3

Available here.

Premise:

(Among others)

  • A woman fights her way through a battle zone carrying precious cargo: the temporarily-downloaded consciousness of her dead husband.
  • An abused young girl discovers she has the means to attack her tormentors– but it comes at a price.
  • Actually, a number of abused girls and women discover the means to lash out at their tormentors. Price varies.
  • Sexual politics interact with politics of the other sort in a space-opera-esque universe.
  • An aged veteran meets a troubling spirit from Japanese mythology
  • Men learn what menstruation might feel like.

High Points:

In “Boxlunch,” a character races against time and a dangerous environment. Snyder crosses this familiar premise with the downloadable memories and consciousness of more recent SF. There’s nothing particularly new here, but it makes for a compelling read, and the author creates a strong sense of the setting and its history without burying us in exposition.

Snyder sets two of her tales in a futuristic world which owes a little to Space Opera. “Burning Bright” works best of the pair, a suspenseful story with a convincing resolution. “Roses of Gomorrah” features some evocative imagery and disturbingly plausible concepts. It ends rather abruptly; I felt a little like I had read the first chapter of a novel, and it was a novel I wanted to complete.

“Through Thy Bounty,” an SF/horror piece, shows Snyder at her most disturbing. Some of the other scary tales, such as “…And Her Shadow” and “The Dogs of Summer,” while good, recall Stephen King. In “…Bounty,” I heard a more original voice.

Low Points:

All writers repeat themselves, and this can become obvious in an anthology, which collects material originally published in separate places. A particular type of revenge story can wear thin when repeated. The supernatural medium of vengeance in “…And Her Shadow” resembles the one in “The Sheets Were Clean and Dry.” The more mundane assault by skillet occurs in two different tales.

Snyder wrote these pieces between 1998 and the present. Her style varies, and has improved over the years. The early sentimental piece “…Next on Channel 77” explicitly provides information which the story has already or will shortly communicate more effectively through less overt means.

The Scores:

As this book is an anthology, it does not easily fit into any of our scoring categories. While I cannot provide an overall score, I will say that the book contains some memorable imagery and a surprising sense of humour. Readers, particularly those with an interest in horror and SF, should keep their eyes open for Lucy A. Snyder.