Thursday, 16 June 2011

Book Revew: Stories by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

It's incredibly tricky to review an anthology of fiction, diverse as they tend to be in style and content.  Even trickier, then, when it is a book authored by over two dozen well-known names.  There is no common theme or genre linking these tales, and I think that was essentially the aim of the editors in producing this volume: it is a celebration of storytelling itself.  In the introduction, Gaiman writes about the power of four simple words: "And then what happened?"  It is this pure love of fiction that comes across in so many of the stories included in this book.  Below is a summary of some of the best.

"Blood" by Roddy Doyle
Written in Doyle's signature style, without a single speech mark in sight, the reader is treated to an insight into a rather unusual Dublin banker.

"The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman
A dwarf and a reaver set out to find a cave which, according to legend, is filled with gold.  Except that the story isn't really about that at all.

"Samantha's Diary" by Diane Wynne Jones
The audio diary of Samantha is salvaged from a skip in a futuristic London, and tells the story of a most unorthodox Christmas gift.  I've often heard good things about the late Diane Wynne Jones, and "Samantha's Diary" offers even more encouragement to seek out her other work.

"Leif In The Wind" by Gene Wolfe
The cabin fever and isolation of a deep space mission become too much for a small crew who have already lost a number of their colleagues.

"The Devil On The Staircase" by Joe Hill
A fable with Faustian elements, Hill spins a yarn of a youth who spends his life carrying goods up and down the steps to his mountain village.  When he happens upon a gateway to a previously non-existent staircase, it sets in motion a series of life-changing events.

As with any anthology, there are a few weak links.  Chuck Palahniuk's "Loser" didn't quite satisfy as his novels consistently do, and while "The Therapist" by Jeffery Deaver offers an interesting premise, its execution feels like it is missing something.  But overall, Stories is a strong collection.  One tale which deserves an honourable mention is "Wildfire In Manhattan" by Joanne Harris, which introduces a modern take on Norse mythology and offers readers a glimpse into a fantastical world, all within twenty pages.

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