A COLLECTION of COLLECTIONS
FIVE FINE COLLECTIONS from 2003
In for a Penny James P. Blaylock
Subterranean Press/ 175 p / $40
Descriptions of Blaylock's fiction tend to employ adjectives such as singular, quirky, and evocative. It's also completely non-categorical, although sometimes tinged with traces of many genres. Unlike previous collection The Thirteen Phantasms, these stories are relatively unfamiliar. This is Blaylock at the top of his game, revealing quiet secrets of memory, mortality, and magic.
Carroll & Graf / 224 p / $23
A collection of five stories from an original, haunting, literate voice. His impressive first novel, The Snowman's Children was a highlight of 2002. Hirshberg has a knack for the truly unsettling tale, the kind that draws us closer and closer to the picture where we discover the image before us is really a mirror. This is certainly one of the most remarkable debut collections in memory.
Subterranean Press / 297 p / $40
Irvine racked up a number of 2002 awards with his first novel A Scattering of Jades. Here are thirteen fantasy stories that offer a unique and imaginative view that tends to darkly speculate rather than scare outright. Sometimes the speculation goes too far a field (as in the "history"-based "Akhenaten") but for the most part (as in the future-based "Agent Provocateur") it hits the mark.
Michael Marshall Smith
Earthling / 488 pages / $40
I assume you are acquainted with the short fiction of Michael Marshall Smith? Not just the novels -- Only Forward, Spares, One of Us, The Straw Men -- but his stories a well. His first published story won the 1991 British Fantasy award and there's seldom been a year since that one "year's best" or the other did not include an MMS tale, and he's been a staple of many the best original anthologies in the last decade. More Tomorrows & Other Stories collects his best previously published stories, plus work never published in the U.S, and five stories original to the book. (Another original is exclusive to the lettered limited edition.) The terrific Stephen Jones intro is both frank and personal, and the author's "Afterword" provides some insight to his method. Smith is invariably labeled as a writer who "mixes genres" or "crosses genre lines" or some such tiresome phrase. What he really does is simply write, and write well, fiction that is more imaginative than mundane, disquieting rather than either comforting, subtle rather than shocking. There's often a touch of dark, perhaps slightly twisted, wit. Invariably, something from a Smith story will adhere permanently to your psyche. Presented together, Smith's stories stick even more firmly and impressively.
Golden Gryphon / 332 pages/ $24.95
Dale Bailey's short work is more proof that the best of "genre" fiction these days and nothing to do with boundaries and everything to do with imagination and writing skill. Bailey's character-based stories are rooted more firmly in genre traditions than many of the emerging talents of fantastic literature like Glen Hirshberg, Jeff VanderMeer, or Kelly Link. (His novel, The Fallen, was very much in mainstream Stephen king mode). He writes polished, highly readable stories that often touch on standard themes -- coming-of-age, the family -- or draw upon a strong sense of place. No chances are taken stylistically or with character, structure or plot. Bailey's stories are a sort of literary "comfort food" -- extremely well-made, reminiscent of the familiar, and filling. At this point in his career, he seems to be a reliable writer to whom readers can return over and over with satisfaction: never spectacular, but always worthwhile. And there's a great deal to be said for that.
Reviews for More Tomorrows & Other Stories and The Resurrection Man's Legacy appeared in Cememetery Dance #48. All other reviews on this page appeared in Cemetery Dance #47.
Copyright © 2004 by Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.
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