Stories: All New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio. Headline '.6.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
The intention of these editors is to provide the reader with new, sharp stories. All those included here are well written and verge towards the horror, turning up the corners of humanity to glimpse the base under the covers. Some authors, such as Roddy Doyle and Jodi Picoult, are not generally regarded as genre writers but their stories do not seem out of place here. The stories cover a wide range within the genre from SF to fantasy, including evocations of myth and folk tale. Many have a contemporary setting that encompasses the bizarre and surreal but all have the kind of edge that may make them appeal to the horror reader. The biggest problem is that few of these stories are memorable. But a few are outstanding.
Elizabeth Hand's novella 'The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon' has already been nominated for a Hugo. It tells of a group of friends intent on recreating a fragment of ancient film showing man-powered flight two years before the Wright brothers launched a new era at Kittihawk. Using models and modern technology it is a gift for a dying friend but also an exploration of change and regret. It is has a gentle charm
'Samantha's Diary' by Diana Wynne Jones is memorable for its over-the-top humour. It takes a theme that others have tackled before but treats it with the aplomb of an experienced writer who knows how to turn a clich' on its head. In the far future, Samantha is charmed when, on 25 December, a gift of a bird in a leafless tree is delivered. The next day she receives another plus two pigeons. By third day, the same gift with the addition of three chickens, the reader and Samantha's boyfriend are beginning to get an inkling of what to expect next. Samantha however has the problem of feeding all the birds, find space for them and they are not house trained. As the days pass, the cute gift turns into a nightmare.
Also of note are 'Wildfire in Manhattan' by Joanne Harris and Joe Hill's 'The Devil On The Staircase'. In the former, the Norse Gods are hanging out in New York. Lucky (Loki) is a very flamboyant, accident prone rock musicians ' his gigs seem plagued by lightning strikes and fires. Then his fellow gods start being killed. He and Arthur (Thor) try to defend Sunny with unexpected results. Joe Hill's story is unusual in that it is written in the form of a flight of steps. The narrator spends his childhood and youth helping his father repair the steps leading from his village to the valley. It is when he commits a crime that he discovers the truth about lies.
This is the kind of book that is ideal to take on holiday or read on a train.[...]