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.
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.