What I’m Reading: Carry Vaughn – Kitty’s Greatest Hits

Not so much Greatest Hits as Collected B-Sides, this volume contains mostly stories that have appeared in various anthologies over the years. Not all of them (indeed, only the minority) have Kitty Norville as their protagonist, but they are all set in the same universe as the Kitty novels and the reader of this collection will encounter many familiar names. Like with all good B-sides there is a lot of experimentation going on here, where Carrie Vaughn strays from the familiar Kitty formula and tries new things, plays with different sounds and reaches for different modes of expression.

Still in analogy with most B-sides collections, the stories vary quite a bit in quality, reaching from a mere “meh” to “exciting”, with the occasional “funny!” thrown in (it should be noted that there are no complete duds to be found here, though, even the weaker stories are at least readable). The ones I liked the least were the ones in  historical settings, as Carrie Vaughn just does not manage to give her characters a voice and a mindset that would be convincingly pre-modern, they feel more like modern people play-acting in front of a painted historical backdrop. In marked contrast to those, the stories featuring Kitty Norville as first-person narrator are among the highlights of the collection (and how could anyone possibly not love a story that is titled “Kitty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned”?) with in particular the tone of the narration being spot-on (which makes me wonder just how much it is due to Kitty’s distinctive voice that the novels are so enjoyable to read).

Another favourite story in this collection is “Life is the Teacher” which is basically about a vampire growing up – leaving the nourishing haven of home to go out into the world, learning to stand on her own feet, and of course discovering sex. Not much happens in this story, but it is an impressive character piece and rife with atmosphere. Said atmosphere is also very lush and sexually charged and makes me wish Carrie Vaughn would write erotica, at least occasionally.

The story I liked best, though, and the ones fans of the series will be most likely to gobble up is “Long Time Waiting” – also the only one that really fills a gap in the novels by telling the full story of what  happened to Cormac in prison. It probably is no accident that this is also the longest story in the collection – Carrie Vaughn’s writing seems to work better in the long form, she is more of an album artist and her singles just don’t live up to her longplayers. Still, for the most part Kitty’s Greatest Hits is a fun collection, and anyone who has been following the series should grab it for “Long Time Waiting” alone.


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