A collection of Christmas stories with just the right blend of sugar and spice.
Willis (Crosstalk, 2016, etc.) has strong opinions about Christmas, from the perfect Christmas movie to watch (not It’s a Wonderful Life) to what’s wrong with most Christmas stories: they’re “improbably sentimental and saccharine.” The good news is that Willis has avoided falling into that trap with this book of stories, an expanded version of Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (1999). “Miracle” and “deck.halls@boughs/holly” deliver a pleasantly old-fashioned screwball-comedy tone, complete with romance. In “Adaptation,” a story that deftly balances heartfelt emotion and satire, a divorced father yearning to spend Christmas with his daughter encounters the Spirit of Christmas Future—working as a bookstore clerk. In another story that’s part satire, part romantic comedy, the narrator of “All Seated on the Ground” struggles to figure out why alien visitors to Earth have responded to a Christmas carol when nothing else has gotten through to them. Some stories, such as “In Coppelius’s Toyshop,” strike a darker tone or tackle the issue of faith directly, as in “Epiphany.” Not all the stories hit—the pod-people premise of “Newsletter” is both too mean-spirited and not pointed enough to work—but those that do are sweet and sharp, whimsical and heartfelt, funny and warm, just like the Christmas stories, movies, and TV episodes Willis recommends at the end of this volume.
Fans of Willis’ gently comic speculative fiction will love this collection, and it will also appeal to readers looking to get into the holiday spirit.