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REVIEW: Stories – All New Tales, Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fascinating mix of speculative fiction stories.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio edit an anthology of epic proportions with an astonishing corps of writers, including Joyce Carol Oats, Jodi Picoult, Jeffrey Ford, Chuck Palahniuk, Elizabeth Hand, Joe Hill, Michael Moorcock, and a number of others.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: This anthology is dominated by superior stories, with a broad mix of science fiction, horror, fantasy and mystery, it is an all encompassing blend of speculative fiction. Plus, it’s got an excellent cover.
CONS: Some stories aren’t as good as others, or didn’t quite fit.
BOTTOM LINE: An rich, irresistible, thought-provoking read.


Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, is based on a single premise, according to Gaiman’s introduction: “…and then what happens?”. Armed with the idea that stories should compel the reader to continue to turn the page to see what happens next. At that, the series of twenty-six stories largely succeeds, with a great amount of variety (in terms of story contents, themes and characters), that looks to new and old ideas to tell some absolutely fantastic stories. In short, short story fans will find this to be an irresistible read, for it is both rich and thought provoking.

A number of stories stand out amongst the pack, opening with a chilling story by Roddy Doyle, “Blood”, with a short tale of a man who develops a taste for human blood as a sort of mid-life crisis. Joyce carol Oats comes next with “Fossil Figures”, a tale of duality involving two brothers separated and inseparable at the same time. Neil Gaiman’s story “The Truth is a Dave in the Black Mountains” is a mythological style tale of morality, while Joe Lansdale’s story, “The Stars Are Falling” looks to the impact of the 1st World War on a returning soldier. Jodi Picoult’s story, “Weights and Measures” is a truly heartbreaking story of the death of a child, Michael Swanwick’s story “Goblin Lake” and Kat Howard’s “A Life In Fictions” are two metastory tales that pull their characters into the pages of their respective stories. “Let the Past Begin” by Jonathan Carroll looks to curses and fortunes, “The Therapist” by Jeffrey Deaver recounts the tale of an insane therapist, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand is a fun, modern steampunkish tale, and Joe Hill’s capstone story, “The Devil on the Staircase” looks to religion and a lot of staircases (as well as some fun layout) to finish out the volume. This book has quite a lot to offer a very diverse audience.

There are some stories that missed the mark for me: Michael Smith’s “Unbelief”, Richard Adam’s “The Knife”, Jeffrey Ford’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, Chuck Palahniuk’s “Loser” and a couple of others, which fit within the story’s premise (if only just, for a couple), but didn’t leave me with much of an impression like some of the other stories listed above. However, more often than not, I came away wowed by what I had just read.

One of the interesting elements of the story is the diversity of the group of authors, ranging from well known speculative fiction writers, such as Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, and Michael Moorcock to more well known mainstream writers, such as Joyce Carol Oats, Jodi Picoult and Chuck Palahniuk, which helps go to show that genres in fiction are difficult to define at best, that the stigmas surrounding speculative fiction are continually eroding, or a mixture of both. At any rate, Sarrantonio and Gaiman pull together a high quality anthology that is defined by the strength of the writers present between the covers.

Stories is a diverse group of tales, which helps set the anthology apart from a number of others as the book form seems to be taking off. Rather than grouping stories around a common theme (Such as post-apocalyptic, as in Wastelands, Superheroes, as in Masked) or by genre, as in the Year’s Best Science Fiction Stories, Stories sets out to tell a broad range of speculative fiction stories that focuses on the key elements of storytelling: entertainment, enlightenment, and the ability of a storyteller to captivate their audience.

About Andrew Liptak (180 Articles)
Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer and historian from Vermont. He is a 2014 graduate of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and has written for such places as Armchair General, io9, Kirkus Reviews, Lightspeed Magazine, and others. His first book, War Stories: New Military Science Fiction is now out from Apex Publications, and his next, The Future Machine: The Writers, Editors and Readers who Build Science Fiction is forthcoming from Jurassic London in 2015. He can be found over at www.andrewliptak.com and at @AndrewLiptak on Twitter.
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