Thief of Lives, by Lucy Sussex is part of Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets collection. I have previously reviewed other Twelve Planets, Nightsiders by Sue Isles and Bad Power by Deborah Biaccotti.
Thief of Lives is a collection of four short stories without common setting. I have to admit, this collection was closer to literary realism than I usually read. Thematically, women are central to all the stories in a variety of different ways. Karen Joy Fowler eloquently explains what Sussex writes about in the introduction:
Fantasy, history, crime. The relationship of women to men. The relationship of women to women. The relationship of the writer to her subject.
The first story in this collection is set in ancient Babylon. It’s about the best perfumier in the city, one of the first chemists in the world. She is watched, throughout her life by an immortal who has singled her out the smartest person in Babylon and is fascinated by her mind.
The Fountain of Justice
This story can be most accurately described as crime. It’s set around underworld shootings in an Australian city (I would guess Melbourne, but I don’t think it ever said), and told from the point of view of a legal aid.
The Subject of O
This story is about the main character’s understanding of her sexual experiences, when she starts to see them in a new light.
Thief of Lives
The titular story was my favourite of the bunch. The main character is PA to a successful urban fantasy novelist who has been sent to Bristol to conduct some research. While there she discovers a psychic vampire preying on the town; a creature who sucks the life out of its victims before committing their lives to paper. It’s a fascinating exploration of writers drawing inspiration from their surroundings that interweaves reality and fantasy.
Twelfth Planet Press has been putting out some really excellent collections with their Twelve Planet series and I suspect I may end up buying and reading all twelve as they come out. (Four down, one to go and seven more yet to be published…)
4 / 5 stars