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Chicks and Balances
edited by Esther Friesner & John Helfers
Baen, Trade pb $15.00, 305pp
Published: July 2015

Wow, the sixth Chicks book in what…thirty years!!…Where has the time gone?  It is so awesome that this series is still alive and kicking…ass.

So, much as its predecessors, this is all about women defying convention.  As a whole, this book worked quite well.  Individually, some stories worked better for me than others; but that’s invariably true of all anthologies.

“The Girls from the Hood” by Jim Hines was pretty amusing, an outtake on Snow White, Ariel and others as mercenaries.  “Smackdown at Walmart” by Elizabeth Vaughn was funny mostly for the setting: Walmart.  I like the take on 12 Dancing Princesses but I wasn’t as happy with the ending. “The Mammyth” by Harry Turtledove was a hysterical series of puns and irony.  “Dark Pixii” by Wen Spencer may have been my favorite – what’s not to like about finding a carnivorous spirit in a dressing room at an anime clothing booth at a convention?

“A Warrior Looks at 40” by Julia Mandala had possibilities:  a 40-something warrior babe who always relied on her looks, particularly her boobs, to distract and disarm opponents finds they don’t quite do the job anymore.  I didn’t think it worked well.  Esther Friesner’s “Roll Model” was the usual cleverly plotted story we expect from her. I thought Jean Rabe really nailed it in “Second Hand Hero;” it felt very relevant and it was amusing:  fat foodie finds mystical object in thrift store and becomes Warrior Babe.

I loved “Calling the Mom Squad” by Sarah Hoyt and I have got to find out if she writes more of the soccer mom who secretly fights dragons and other ETs while hiding it from her family.  Laura Frankos gets my vote for the best of the lot with her “One Touch of Hippolyta” which is definitely in keeping with the theme and has the best plot in the book:  bookish museum curator finds statue of Amazon along with her sword and the statue comes to life in true glorious woman warrior fashion, transforming mousy curator, as well.  But…and I wish I didn’t have to say it…the ending was lame; the last four paragraphs didn’t need to be there.

Other contributing authors were (and the lack of specific mention should, in no way, imply that I didn’t enjoy the story): Jody Lynn Nye, Kerrie Hughes, Steven Harper Piziks, Alex Shvartsman, Robin Wayne Bailey, Laura Resnick, Lee Martindale, Patricia Hodgell, Dean Wesley Smith,Linda Donahue, Louisa Swann, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough,  and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.   ~~  Catherine Book

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