Russell's Attic Interstitials

by S.L. Huang

Cover image

Series: Cas Russell
Publisher: S.L. Huang
Copyright: 2014, 2015
ASIN: B00RFW1FTQ
ASIN: B013ZB43XU
Format: Kindle
Pages: 43

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Between Half Life and Root of Unity, Huang published two short stories in the Cas Russell universe. These were separately published, so normally I'd give both of them a full review, but they're extremely short and that felt silly. So both are getting reviewed in this "fake" book.

To make things more confusing, the series has been picked up by Tor and is in the process of being reissued as the Cas Russell series, rather than Huang's original series title of Russell's Attic (which I think is much better, but I don't work in book marketing). But the short stories were published with the subtitle A Russell's Attic Interstitial, so I'm sticking with that for the title here.

You can read both of these for free online if you join Huang's mailing list, or they're about $1 each from ebook retailers.

"A Neurological Study on the Effects of Canine Appeal on Psychopathy, or, RIO ADOPTS A PUPPY": Those who have read the series at all will recognize Rio as Cas's disturbing psychopath friend. Dexter is the analogy that others may be familiar with: Rio is a mass murderer who has adopted Christianity as an external moral code, follows it very precisely but selectively to do good in the world (mostly by going after bad people), and expects to be going to Hell anyway. After all, he does torture and kill people regularly, and religion is rather clear about these things.

In this short story, a starving and injured dog shows up at Rio's doorstep, and Rio of course takes care of the dog because that's what one is supposed to do. It's mostly an opportunity to show a day in Rio's life from his own perspective, including his constant temptation towards torture and artistic slaughter (indulged once here against one of his targets, so there's a lot of very graphic violence). If you like Rio more than I do and want the details of how Rio copes with his compulsions, there's a lot of that here, but I think it's obvious and skippable. I didn't learn anything of consequence about Rio that wasn't already obvious from the rest of the series, and I found being inside his head disturbing and not particularly enjoyable. The best thing about the story was the title. (4)

"An Examination of Collegial Dynamics as Expressed Through Marksmanship, or, LADIES' DAY OUT": Pilar decides that since she's around people who are constantly using deadly weapons, she should learn how to shoot. So she asks Cas, who is entirely nonplussed by the request. But Pilar is very good at talking people into doing things.

Pilar is one of the few people who could tolerate Cas's acerbic grumpiness. Cas has no desire to be a teacher, but she can see exactly what Pilar's doing wrong with every attempt, so she's surprisingly good at it. But the depth of the story comes not from the teaching, but from Pilar's reactions to having and potentially using a gun, intermixed with Cas's fights with her own demons and her willingness to kill.

This, I liked, at about the level of the rest of the series. Since it's an optional interstitial, it does suffer from an inability to make any dramatic forward progress with characterization or life decisions for the characters. But I like both Pilar and Cas as characters, and I like watching them interact. If you enjoy the rest of the series, this is worth your time. (7)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2018-03-31

Last modified and spun 2018-04-01