Tales that, through their extraordinary clarity of thought and expression, showcase precisely why this multiaward-winning...

NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT

Another collection of speculative fiction from Swanwick (Chasing the Phoenix, 2015, etc.), one of a handful of writers whose short pieces are as impressive as their novels.

Versatility, craftsmanship, a dollop of weird, and a delightfully askew sense of humor are key to the 17 pieces here, all of which appeared between 2008 and 2014, together with an introduction that illuminates the contents without revealing too much. Certain themes, of course, are authorial favorites, such as time travel, aliens, and artificial intelligence. There's a man who, having suffered a crushing loss, finds solace after accidental contact with a time traveler; a group of time travelers hunkered down at the end of the Cretaceous period—where, oddly, nobody’s interested in the dinosaurs; and a scientist who finds a partner worthy of her genius. We also get a fascinating glimpse (which feels like a novel fragment) of a far future populated by humans and centipedelike aliens, narrated by the intelligent space suit of a woman who’s dead as the story begins; and another future where human lives resemble those in fairy tales while advanced, hidden AIs battle for supremacy. Elsewhere, in a literary-games vein, the characters in a fairy tale discuss whether they prefer to remain in books, and immortal, or enter history; there's a famous Gene Wolfe story stripped down, turned inside out, and rebuilt to perfection; and, in a marvelous conceit, the writer Alexander Pushkin appears as he may have been—in an alternative universe. To round out the collection, we meet a dutiful young woman who, entering hell to challenge the devil to return her father, discovers that things are not as she assumed; Darger and Surplus, those good-hearted rogues with a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot, make an appearance, as does "The House of Dreams," an entry from Swanwick’s splendid Mongolian Wizard e-book series.

Tales that, through their extraordinary clarity of thought and expression, showcase precisely why this multiaward-winning author is held in such high regard.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61696-228-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 75

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more