Four novellas representing four narrative styles ponder questions of humanity, technology, wishes and love.
The stand-alone novellas riff, dizzyingly and delightfully, on influences as varied as The Wizard of Oz and westerns, Mad Max and slang-laden teen diaries, The Arabian Nights and police procedurals, "Sleeping Beauty" and the sardonic Death of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. In “Toy Farm,” toys grown from the earth wonder, as they fight for their lives: What’s the difference between consciousness and humanity? “Wish Police” pulls back the curtain on the secret world of wishes—their varying degrees of strength, worthiness and consequences—as a lonely, world-weary djinn sworn to protect and serve works to prevent deadly wishes from coming true. As its punny title suggests, “Doom With a View” is a sweeping love story, complete with impossibly attractive protagonists, heroic feats of derring-do and a charming narrator in Death himself. Strong and assured, these stories seamlessly merge different styles, teasing out and playing with readers’ assumptions about how westerns, fantasy and fairy tales work. Less successful is the second novella, “Our Lady of Villains,” a giggling teen diary set in a paranoia-inducing, technology-saturated post-apocalyptic future. The voice is too lightweight to carry the thematic load, but this lone misstep is not nearly enough to ruin the delightful effect of the collection as a whole.
Overall, provocative and deeply satisfying. (Novellas. 14 & up)