The author, who uses both the names McGuire (Middlegame, 2019) and Mira Grant, has written fantasy, sf, and horror novels. Her first collection of stories explores the same rich, multigenre territory.
In these tales, scientists carry their brilliant innovations too far, fallen warriors decide their afterlife on a football field, sentient plants threaten the British Empire, dolls turn out to have more agency than one might wish them to, and we learn the real reason why American women must visit the bathroom in pairs. Some tales recall the work of Isaac Asimov; he used to write nice, tight stories of this kind, exploring all the nuances of an interesting idea to their fullest extent, heading to the seemingly inevitable resolution, and stopping. But Asimov’s characters were often wooden, puppets in the service of his speculation; in contrast, McGuire’s fully dimensional people are at least as, and often more than, important as the idea. She focuses on those who inhabit the fringes: the outcast, the bullied, the strange, the gifted, the lonely, and the lost. Many of these characters are seeking a quite understandable justice. Others have more obscure and dangerous goals. Her characters triumph, more often than not, sometimes when it might be better for the world or themselves if they didn’t. In McGuire’s multiverse, myth and a good story have the power to shape personality, destiny, and the entire world. Many of the tales collected here were requested for themed anthologies, and that circumstance plus McGuire’s own preoccupations mean that this book contains a certain amount of repetition as well as several riffs on fictional properties that many other authors have previously responded to, including Oz, Peter Pan (twice), Pinocchio, and the Lovecraft mythos. But if those properties and McGuire's themes seem familiar, her explorations into them are exceptionally well crafted and imaginative.
Full of chills, thrills, dark laughter, karmic justice, and the occasional spot of hope.