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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card

Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card. New York: Tor, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-7653-0497-1

I am a huge Orson Scott Card fan. I’ll read anything he’s written. This collection of short stories being no exception. This is by far and away the best of the several collections I’ve read recently. By definition, and by experience as well.

Card has divided his collection into five sections, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Literary, Hatrack River and Mormon Stories. The Hatrack River stories are the best, of course. Kind of like eating dessert. Anyone who’s read any of The Tales of Alvin Maker will want to read these two stories. In one of them Alvin and Arthur Stuart run into Davy Crockett a-grinning a bear. That one is quite funny. The ending especially, had me literally really truly LOL (laughing out loud).

In the other one they meet up with Jim Bowie, Stephen Austin, and more importantly, Abe Lincoln. According to Card’s comments about the story, which is titled “The Yazoo Queen,” it is actually the beginning (Chapter Zero, so to speak) of The Crystal City, the penultimate book in the Alvin Maker series. But because it was specifically written for Robert Silverberg’s second Legends anthology, and was under exclusive contract for that collection, it couldn’t even be reprinted as part of Crystal City. So it’s definitely a must read for all Hatrack River/Alvin Maker fans.

But I’ve given you the good stuff first (not really) and there are several other stories worthy of a mention. The very first story in the book, “The Elephants of Poznan,” is a very good post-holocaust kind of story, with a totally new and unexpected variant on why and how mankind is vanishing off the earth.

The next story, “Atlantis,” is one of my all-time favorite Card stories. I’ve read it at least twice before, but that didn’t stop me from reading it again here, once I came across it, nosirree. This story purports to tell the true tale of the original Noah, the person, people, and events that formed the basis for all of the ancient flood tales, from the one in the Bible, to the one in the Gilgamesh epic, not to mention all of the Atlantis legends. And it’s a most persuasive version. If it’s not really true, it SHOULD be. If you’ve not read it yet, you’re in for a treat. For those who read all of Card’s stuff, it is worth mentioning that “Atlantis” is connected to his novel, Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

In the fantasy section of the book, “Dust,” is definitely worth a mention. It’s the kind of fantasy story I always enjoy, in which someone stumbles through an unusual doorway, or portal of some kind, and ends up in fairly land, or some other reality. This one is as good as any of them, incorporating elements of the Fisher King or related stories.

“In the Dragon’s House” was another favorite. It involves one of the more unusual dragons you’re ever likely to meet. It’s also a wonderful childhood to adolescence coming of age kind of story, which has always been one of my favorite genres.

There are two “literary” stories, and “Feed the Baby of Love,” is a bona fide winner, another of the truly outstanding stories to be encountered in this collection.

Finally, Card ends the book with four “Mormon” stories. I’m glad he included them, because they help to show the real man, the person who’s at the heart of all of Card’s writing, and it’s a man you can’t help but respect, even though you may not agree with all of his views and opinions about issues. Not that there is really anything in these stories themselves to disagree with, mind you. That’s not what I meant. One of them, “Christmas at Helaman’s House,” is, indeed, a Christmas card kind of story. As is “Dust,” incidentally, back in the fantasy section. Someday, Card may have to put out a collection of “Christmas Card” stories (pun intended), since the one I recently reviewed on this blog makes at least the third one that I’m currently aware of, and I don’t doubt there may be others.

All in all, this book is a treasure house of stories waiting to be unlocked. I’ve mentioned my favorites, but there weren’t any that I aggressively disliked. Highly recommended for all fans of Mr. Orson Scott Card, long may he live and prosper, and continue to give us excellent stories like these.

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