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The Empire of Ice Cream

Jeffrey Ford. Golden Gryphon. $24.95
(320p) ISBN: 1-930846-39-8
(April 2006)

book coverThe Empire of Ice Cream, Ford's second collection of fiction, may be better than his first, the World Fantasy Award-winning The Fantasy Writer's Assistant (2002) -- and that is quite an achievement. Ford's inspired writing mesmerizes the reader. Reality is a tenuous concept in these stories; the fantastic only step away from the ordinary and, no matter how strange things get, utterly believable. "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" tells of the Twilmish: microscopic creatures whose entire lives are dependent on the short existence of a sand castle on the beach. In the bittersweet title story a young man with synesthesia falls in love with a girl who appears with the taste of coffee. A man returns to the haunts of his childhood and a neighborhood bar in "The Tropics". Charon takes a vacation from his occupation of ferrying the dead across the River Styx in "Boatman's Holiday". Dark things burrow into a young boy's world in the nostalgic previously unpublished novella "Botch Town". A young reporter experiences the strangest night of his life in the surrealistic "A Man of Light". A bizarre chemistry of printed words is revealed in "The Weight of Words". Written with lucidity and exactitude, the fourteen stories of this wondrous compilation also delve into faerie, drugs, love, betrayal, loss, a variety of emotions, and boundless imagination. It's sure to be one of the best of this or any year. -- Paula Guran (Originally published in Fantasy #2, Spring 2006)