Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stories: All New Tales

Stories: All-New TalesStories: All-New Tales by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like most short story collections, this one is a mixed bag. There were some great ones, some pretty good ones, some that were instantly forgettable, and a few that flat out stunk.

Favorites: "The Devil on the Staircase" by Joe Hill; "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman; "A Life in Fictions" by Kat Howard; "The Therapist" by Jeffery Deavers; "Catch and Release" by Lawrence Block; and "Loser" by Chuck Palahniuk.

Absolute Favorite: "Wildfire in Manhatten" by Joanne Harris.

I expected to like the Hill and Gaiman stories - I'm a fan of both authors. I was also looking forward to trying Deavers and Block. Kat Howard was a pleasant surprise, as this was her first published work, and it's shorter than most. But I really liked the imagery. I found myself grinning madly as I finished the Palahniuk story. As he did with Fight Club, his cynical humor really hits the mark.

I have never read Joanne Harris before, but I loved (*****) her story in this collection. Enough that I'll be checking out other work by her on her website.

If the entire book had been up to the level of these I just listed, it would be a 5-star affair, easily. There are several other stories that are still good, though I didn't list them with the favorites: stories by Michael Swanwick, Gene Wolfe, Elizabeth Hand, Tim Powers, and Jodi Picoult made for an enjoyable experience.

So what dropped the rating to a two-star? The inclusion of "Samantha's Diary" by Diana Wynne Jones, "Mallon the Guru" by Peter Straub, "The Cult of the Nose" by Al Sarrantonio, and "Stories" by Michael Moorcock.

Those that have followed my reviews in the last few months might be surprised by that last one, but the Moorcock story was easily the worst in the entire book. It might have been the worst story I've ever read. That says a lot, as I'm a longtime Moorcock fan. Well, I was a fan of his work before he got too smart for his readers and learned how to string a mile-long sentence full of empty, pretentious bullshit. Then to string along a series of these sentences to fill the pages of a book. He uses such big words, drops literary references more than he inserts commas, and says absolutely fucking nothing. Oh, and those literary references? I'm probably too stupid to be reading Moorcock anyway, but I only recognized one. The rest were names strewn across the paper as meaningless as the narrative that contained them. This story alone was almost enough to send the book to 2-star Hell.

I didn't realize I had such venom for that story. I honestly am surprised I felt anything at all but the onset of an Excedrin headache. There was a positive note to the Moorcock story though: it made me forget the wasted time spent reading the Jones, Straub, and Sarrantonio stories.

Such a long review without spoilers. If you've read this far, I will once more reiterate the opinion that the book is a fun experience, overall. The inclusion of a few turds should not detract one from picking it up. The good stories are excellent and should not be missed. And how often does one pick up a collection that doesn't have a few stinkers in it?

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