Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman

I've been reading this collection of short stories called, simply, Stories, and edited by Neal Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. I try to make it a point to write a review, or whatever these things are, for everything -- or every hardcopy, anyways -- I read, but this presents a new and therefore interesting problem: How do you review an anthology?

Well, here's a li'l not-so-secret for you: I don't write these 'reviews' for you. I write them entirely for me. I read so much stuff, you see, that if I don't keep track of them somehow I will forget them. Which is, at least in part, why my reviews lean heavily towards plot summary. ( I'm sure there's a fair amount of "I'm not a good reviewer" in there too.)

So what happens in Stories? Well: Santa Clause is killed, and alternately revealed to be an alien. A character steps out of his story and becomes real. An author adds two paragraphs immediately after what could have been a "Lady and the Tiger" ending, and leaves us with no fewer questions, but a good deal more closure. Exacting, cold, and calculating retribution is taken for an unspeakable crime. A lunatic is put on trial, as is a sane man. Various forms of ghosts drop by. An impossible flying machine actually flys, and presumably gets picked up by aliens. A man climbs millions of stairs. Another man kills himself. Some rich nutcase gets it in his head that it'd be a good idea to literally give someone the things in the song "Twelve Days of Christmas". Through it all, they manage to stretch your imagination, give your brain a real workout. This is good.

The one I'm the most unsure about in the collection is one called, almost ironically, "Stories". It's got a unique flow, with a good number of commas. It's a little hard to follow at first, but it wraps itself up well near the end. The beginning doesn't make any more sense, but the context pulls it together and throws any need for the beginning to make sense out the window. There's less too it, in a poorly defined way -- I think 'having a moral' may have to do with it -- than with the others, even though it's longer than many of them.

Rating: an easy Seven or Eight for the collection. Not worth trying to rate the individual stories.

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