by John Scalzi, Natalie Metzger
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication Date: November 30, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
New York Times bestselling and Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi gift-wraps fifteen short takes on the holiday season—interviews with holiday notables, “informational” articles about TV specials and Christmas carols, short stories and poems, and even a couple of nods to Thanksgiving and New Year’s—and puts them all into a stocking stuffer-sized package that makes the perfect gift for friends, family, or yourself.
It’s that time of year when everyone’s looking for some new reads to put them in the holiday spirit. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun, then I think this anthology will definitely fit the bill.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, with things from lists to short stories. While this is probably overkill, I’ve gone ahead and reviewed each of the items in the anthology, along with an associated quote.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say that moistening aliens was not on the agenda for any of us at this table.”
“Science Fictional Thanksgiving Grace” – ★★★★ – A tongue-in-check prayer thanking the Lord for not yet plunging us into any scifi movie plots, including alien invasions, AI overlords, and dinosaurs. Short and hilarious.
“I think that those cranberries might have fermented on you.”
“A Bitter November” – ★★★★ – November, personified, complains about December barreling in on its month. Quick and silly.
“Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951)”
“The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time” – ★★★ – Descriptions of various “holiday special!!” takes on various books and TV shows, from War of the Worlds to Ayn Rand to Star Trek (where Spock is mistaken as one of Santa’s elves). Interesting concept, but most of them missed the mark for me.
“Santa doesn’t judge people for their kinks, but he does expect them to pay for them.”
“An Interview with Santa’s Lawyer” – ★★★★ – Like the title says, it’s an interview with one of Santa’s lawyers, covering everything from unionized elves to how Santa gets flight clearance to his data gathering practices.
“Jingle! Jangle! Gerbils!”
“A Personal Top 10 of Things That Are Not Titles to Christmas Songs and/or Lifetime Holiday Movies and Honestly I Don’t Understand Why” – ★★★ – The title is almost longer than the list!
“That’s the thing about gifts, Major Collier. They’re not obligations. They’re a kindness.”
“Christmas in July” – ★★★★★ – The first actual short story in the collection, this was sweet, lovely and the epitome of the Christmas spirit (while also still being hilarious).
“Why not reindeer?”
“Interview with Santa’s Reindeer Wrangler” – ★★★★ – Another interview, but this one exploring all the fun bits of reindeer, including how they fly, how they’re recruited, and several very bad cheese jokes.
“Little Public Relations Intern Boy”
“8 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” – ★★★★ – Another list, much like the holiday specials one. Possibly because I’m much more familiar with the source material, but I found the fictional backstories of Christmas favorites – like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Silent Night” – absolutely hilarious.
“Jackie loved Christmas more than most girls and boys
For one simple reason: Because of the toys!”
“Jackie Jones and Melrose Mandy” – ★★ – This poem, while a nice change in format, was simply too preachy for me (there’s more to Christmas than toys!!!), and it didn’t scan well for me.
“You’ve settled on a plan of driving down Santa’s popularity, then.”
“An Interview with the Christmas Bunny” – ★★★ – Another interview! This one was… interesting to say the least.
“You can’t go around drugging people, Jangle.”
“Jangle the Elf Grants Wishes” – ★★★★ – An elf tasked with granting non-material wishes takes things a little too far. Mostly three star, but adding an extra star for the last few lines.
“They are future ninjas for Christ.”
“Script Notes on the Birth of Jesus” – ★★★★ – As if a producer was returning notes on the story of the birth of Jesus from Matthew and Luke. Irreverent and silly, but time traveling ninjas get the nod from me every time.
“It’s nice to be a baby, and know how much you’re loved.”
“Sarah’s Sister” – ★★★★ – At the hospital on Christmas Eve while her mother is in labor, ten-year-old Sarah is still ambivalent about whether she wants a baby sister. Definitely a tear jerker along the lines of It’s a Wonderful Life.
“So your baby is born, and the first thing you do is put him in an open container filled with grain and covered in oxen drool?”
“An Interview with the Nativity Innkeeper” – ★★★ – Like the title says. Irreverent and silly.
“running from murderous drones is SUPER cardio”
“Resolutions for the New Year: A Bullet Point List” – ★★★★★ – Finishing out this anthology with a bang. I found this ridiculously hilarious, but perhaps not for those who are lactose intolerant.
Overall, what do I think? Well, I already went ahead and purchased the hardcover version. While this definitely doesn’t have year-round appeal, it’s definitely a book that I can see revisiting next Christmas when I need a bit of a pick-me-up.