BOOK REVIEW: Like Water for Quarks, Edited by Elton Elliot and Bruce Taylor

REVIEW SUMMARY: Stories exploring fascinating experiences and characters in worlds stranger than I’ve imagined and yet close enough to home to feel I belonged there.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Like Water for Quarks contains stories with suffocating darkness, inter-dimensional portals, life-altering mailmen, ghosts in the ether, and many more mind blowing elements which champion magical realism as a genre for the imagination.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Bends reality without losing true connection to characters.
CONS:  At times too weird; disagreed with a couple stories’ message or direction.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys stories that insert magic into everyday life.

Individual story reviews follow…

“Fishin’ Off the Starry Stream” by Bruce Taylor
Despite the shortness of this story, there is still an emotional pull to its story of a son growing up and leaving his father. Their occupation as dimensional sliders, and existence as energy beings, really makes you wonder, and is a great start to an anthology about magical realism. The only problem is the shortness leaves the reader with the feeling that more could have been explored, both in the world and in the characters.

“In the Garden, a Late Flower Blooms” by Jerry Oltion
A wife goes looking for her husband in the garden and discovers a world similar to their own, but modified to her husband’s dreams. What she discovers about him and herself added emotional power to a very creative and visual experience.

“Once We Were Dragons” by George Zebrowski
Who doesn’t enjoy a unique dragon story? This one comes right out and says all humans turned into dragons one day. The mystery of why and how civilization would react produced a quick read, but the storytelling style of dialogue and narrative summary, possibly in an effort to hurry up the resolution, left the ending without a clear resolution, both of what would happen and why they turned into dragons anyway.

“Petra” by Greg Bear
Very creative worldbuilding and environment of sentient monsters trying to survive among religious zealots. Unfortunately, a personal disagreement about the story’s thinly veiled philosophy of humanity’s role in salvation and failure of God to sustain creation ruined the ending and overall feel reading this story.

“The Fountains” by Ursula K. Le Guin
The language and setting were beautiful, but too confusing to follow. I have no idea what this story was about and not nearly enough about what happened–such as whether or not events were really happening–to have enjoyed it.

“Coincidence” by William F. Nolan
Murder mystery that plays with time, identity and love, which, even though predictable, was still enjoyable.

“Excerpts from Sidney’s Comet” by Brian Herbert
Well written and interesting science fiction, but the excerpt aspect confused too much to enjoy the story or resolution.

“Crater the Earth” by Kathleen Alcala
Interesting imagery of an illegal fireworks display, but point of story was lost, unless the point of the story was to become lost, if for a moment.

“Drilling Deep” by Kevin J. Anderson
Metaphor for digging revealing change over time with a magical trip back in time that is jaw dropping in scope.

“The Scenery of Paradise” by Patrick Swenson
Fantastic journey of planets aligning, gates opening to other universes, and a bridge bringing aliens and the quantum to everyday life. Jeff loses his job, his wife and his daughter, and the magic involved in him trying to recapture them is emotional and well worth the read.

“Going Places” by Ray Vukcevich
Wow. The idea of a guy being able to move his house outside of his neighborhood to anywhere in the world he wants, and what happens to the families in his neighborhood who discover his secret is a thrilling and mind blowing experience. This is the story for the phrase “a tear in the fabric of reality.”

“Blood Tunnel” by Tamara Kaye Sellman
Post apocalyptic world with fabled tunnel into paradise. Creative world building and intriguing main character in her plight to save her daughter and escape oppression, but the ending is unclear and making the bad guys Christians because of their hate for all people different was offensive.

“A Special Child” by James Glass
Okay story of handicapped children with world building powers and their plan to escape government agency seeking to corral their powers.

“The Dead Man’s Child” by Jay Lake
I liked the challenge of career over family, but the disjointed pieces of the story made the story a little hard to read.

“Lost in the Mail” by Robert J. Sawyer
Very interesting character and story idea of what would happen if we discovered the person we were meant to be after making the wrong decision at a fork in the road of our life. I would have liked to see result of Mr. Coin.

“The Man Who Loved Lightning” by Mary E. Choo
Wonderful imagery of being touched by lightning and relationship between estranged husband and wife, but the ending went a different direction than I wanted.

“Goes” by Jason V Brock
Fascinating story about how to stop aging told through an old man who may or may not want to grow old with his wife as normal life dictates.

“At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
Intelligent execution of a Quantum Physics conference in Hollywood being a metaphor for understanding quantum physics, but the story and silliness to prove the point was drawn out and only mildly satisfying in its conclusion.

“The True Darkness” by Pamela Sargent
My favorite story of the anthology. I loved the idea of darkness closing in and what one man will do to lead his wife to safety when neighbors come in offering various strategies. Profound and emotional ending.

“A Quantum Field of Ghosts and Shadows” by Elton Elliot and Doug Odell
Terrific magical realism set at a thriller’s pace. Story elements included aliens, becoming a ghost, meeting other ghosts, and running from a digital (but real) monster. The ending that makes you wonder how you’d respond to a second chance, but in a totally different world that only looks the same on the surface.

Editorial – “A Brief History of Magic Realism” by Bruce Taylor. I’m very glad to have discovered this genre and found the brief history of this sub-genre’s formation informational and interesting.

9 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Like Water for Quarks, Edited by Elton Elliot and Bruce Taylor”

  1. Either don’t review books which offend your religious beliefs, or sequester those beliefs when reviewing books. It does a reader no good to know that you could not properly review a piece because “a personal disagreement” caused you to pan what might otherwise be a perfectly good story. This is not a review, it is a screed.
    Perhaps you ought to only review books that conform to your view of religion. No, that can’t be right…books are supposed to challenge our views and make us think about our cherished assumptions. Hmm, I’m stumped about what you should do. What do you think?

    1. Gerry,
      Thanks for the feedback. I struggled a bit when editing this review for the reason you mentioned. But then I thought that without Tim’s honest comment, it would be impossible for readers of the review to understand why it wasn’t his cup of tea. It gives them a handle on which to agree or disagree with Tim’s assessment. In effect, Tim has enabled review readers to make up their own mind about whether that aspect of the story is detrimental or not to their own enjoyment of the story. That’s useful information.

      1. All reviewers bring their context to reviews. It’s unavoidable. Sometimes it’s more subtle than others. At least he’s honest about it. It’s ridiculous to get angry about it. Readers always bring to their interaction with books their worldview, etc. That doesn’t mean they don’t learn things or have open minds. Sometimes concepts are just not something they can connect with. It shouldn’t be criticized. It’s reality. If you, John, who are such a proponent of free speech, struggle with that, I find that disappointing. The reviewer certainly deserves more respect than this rude judgmental crap.

        1. Agreed, art is subjective. However, as a reviews editor, it’s my job to ensure that a review *sound* as objective as possible. That’s the dichotomy.

    2. The review was written in a respectful way. Tim related his dislike for the story in question as personal preference rather than fact and it’s a fair warning to anyone else who might have similar preferences. Add to that Tim gave the story a 2, when he could have certainly given it 1 or 0 stars had he felt that negatively. It seems to me that he was still able to appreciate elements of the story without letting his own beliefs condemn it completely.

      1. Here, here. Tim made himself perfectly clear regarding his subjectivity. I appreciate that immensely. I’d rather he express himself fully concerning his feelings than try to give me some evened-out view of the story. Reading is an act of reaction, and a discerning reader learns to appreciate what each individual reviewer brings to the table.

  2. If anything, that comment might make me more curious to read that particular story to see what I thought of it…I did not get the impression that the intent was to turn anyone off reading the piece. Every review/reviewer is subjective, and as long as comments are presented fairly and honestly, I think that’s the whole point of a review. “Sequestering” personal beliefs would only lead to dishonest reviews, and how useful are those?

  3. I agree with Bryan Thomas Schmidt and others here. A good review. And Tim is honest and upfront in his response. The fact that any story creates an emotional reaction is good in itself, though its content may not appeal to everyone. Freedom of speech is really important, I believe. Tim has just as much right to feel offended by anti-Christian sentiment in the the author has a right to put across the opposite view.

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