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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, September 26, 2005

Fantasy: The Best of 2004

Fantasy: The Best of 2004 Edited by Karen Haber and Jonathan Strahan. New York: ibooks, 2005. ISBN: 1-4165-0400-1

This collection of fantasy stories certainly wasn't what I expected. I don't read a LOT of modern fantasy, as so much of it, especially novels, seems excessively formulaic. Not to mention that I just can't get that excited about most fantasy universes that people create. My standard reaction to the typical modern fantasy novel is “Why should I care?” Few and far between are the books that pass that test. Mercedes Lackey's The Fairy Godmother was the most recent exception.

But back to the book at hand. The first several stories were disappointing, but in a different way. They just didn't make a lot of sense to me. Neil Gaiman's book-opening “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire” was probably the worst. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be satirical or experimental. The title suggests the former, the actual story suggests the latter. Whichever the case might be, the story didn't do anything for me. Which is quite a change from the last Gaiman I read, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The stories that followed by Michael Swanwick and Gene Wolfe weren't much better. Kelly Link's “The Fairy Handbag” was a slight improvement, but it needs more--more of the story, that is. The ending just flops there, leaving you rather dissatisfied. Peter S. Beagle's “Quarry” is OK, but could almost as easily be classified scifi as fantasy. Robert Silverberg's “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” is better yet, and finally provides more the kind of thing I was expecting. And Jeffrey Ford's story about the Twilmish, a type of fairy that lives in a child's sand castle on the beach, now THAT was a truly charming tale, bittersweet and lovely. The final three stories in the book are OK, but going downhill again.

A book like this is tricky to read, because you keep going out of hope that the next story will be better. And once in a while your hope is realized, so there's just enough incentive to keep you going. Marginally recommended.


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