Friday, July 9, 2010

Stories ed. by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Warning: This may be the most odd review I've ever written. I've told you that up front. It also may be very long. Let me start by saying this: This is by far the best anthology of short fiction I have ever read. Normally when I read a collection of short stories by various authors, I'll like at the very most about 60% of the stories. I don't know why that is, but most of the time, I'm disappointed with short story collections by various authors. If it's a collection by just one author, that percentage is normally higher. With this collection, I literally enjoyed every story in the collection except for one. And that one story I had a major problem with and it has truly thrown a whole wrench into the collection as a whole for me. That's why this review may be a little long. First of all, let me talk about the collection a little bit. Overall, it's brilliantly put together by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It brings together an amazing list of authors, some of today's most well known names in literature alongside a few names that I was not so aware of to present some truly fantastic stories that kept me engaged many nights well into the night. The stories nearly all delve into the realm of some aspect of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction or folklore without even making the reader aware that they are reading any particular "genre". Which is what I love. So many people these days say "oh, I don't like fantasy, I don't read that." Or, "ew...sci-fi? Not for me..." Well read this please! Because it shows you that there's something out there for everyone! In this collection, Jodi Picoult writes a bit of magical realism as a family mourns the loss of their child. Neil Gaiman takes us on a bit of a short high fantasy tale as two men go on a journey to a misty mountain. Diana Wynne Jones gives a futuristic retelling of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Gene Wolfe gives us a gorgeous tale of three people exploring alien life unknown. And Jonathan Carroll spins perhaps the most haunting tale of all of them of secrets and curses. There is literally something here for everyone. Perhaps everything is here for everyone. But there was one thing here which was not for me, and that's where my problem lies. Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction that when compiling this collection they wanted stories that begged the reader to ask "And then what happened?" Those four words. For that's what makes good story telling...that we want more! I couldn't agree more. There was one story in here that repulsed me so much though that I wondered what the hell it was doing in this collection. And that was Lawrence Block's "Catch and Release." It's about a serial killer rapist who calls himself a "catch and release fisherman" who picks up strangers and tortures them, rapes them, kills them and then buries them and leaves. He picks up one girl...tells her she needs to be careful and drops her off. We then follow him as he describes his need to kill, stalks a girl at a supermarket, knocks her out, rapes her, kills her, feels regret for a second and then dismisses the regret and feels fine with himself, the end. WHY??? What is the point of stories like this??? Who wants to read stuff like this? This idiot can write stuff like this if he wants but why is it in this collection that is otherwise so good? Unless I'm totally missing something in the story. Unless there's some deep message that I missed. But try as I may, it appears to me to just be a serial rapist story that is meant to be "entertaining". :/ Yes, I understand that this collection was not published to suit MY tastes. That this wasn't published specifically for me. But but but...I really just don't get it!! There's no redemption..there's no resolve...there's no lesson learned..there's no justice for the heinous acts committed...It's horrific yes, just because it's a fucking horrible story, but it's not a horror story. It's not any kind of fantasy or magical realism or anything like that, so why is it in here? It just didn't go with the rest of this collection. It doesn't belong in any collection in my opinion except for world's worst rape fic. Or worlds best example of men who should be castrated. When I read this story, I did not wonder "And then what happened" the only four words that came to my mind were "who the fuck cares?" And that's where my disappointment lies in this collection and that's my frustration. So it's been hard for me to wrap my head around this collection! All because of this one story!! I just want to rip it out of the book really because it feels wrong in there. Here's my recommendation though. Don't let it stop you from picking up Stories. There are WAY too many INCREDIBLE stories in here that are not too be missed. Seriously, from the very first vampire story by Roddy Doyle (trust me, you haven't heard every take on vampires) to the very last story that's presented in such a unique fashion by Joe Hill, you have such incredible stuff awaiting for you. I literally loved everything (except for that piece of crap by Lawrence Block) in this book, and that's something that I've never been able to say about a short story anthology before. I hope that one day there's a Stories II. I'd be one happy camper indeed if that were to happen. I can't imagine it topping this one, but I would absolutely love to see Neil and Al try!

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