A collection of fantasy and science fiction stories from Tor.
Anthologies are always something of a risk. Themed anthologies rarely stick close to their theme. Single-editor anthologies (as with magazines) often end up with a numbing sameness in the feel or mood of the pieces. Happily, this ‘best of’ collection avoids both traps.
Up to about the halfway point, I thought that the anthology had even managed that rare feat of including only really strong stories. Unfortunately, after the first few stories, things start to weaken, and by the time I reached Paul Park’s ‘poem’, it was clear that too many of the stories are self-consciously ‘intellectual’. I’m a fan of intelligent writing, and some of these stories provide that. Some, however, seem designed more to display the author’s cleverness than to tell a good story. They’re good, in a technical sense, but they’re not engaging of moving.
To pick one example (by an author whose trilogy Starbridge Chronicles trilogy was both intellectual and excellent), look at the ‘poem’ “Ragnarok” by Paul Park. It’s broken up into equal-sized units of free verse, but there’s nothing else about it that says ‘poem’ to me. In fact, it’s a short story written in brief, declarative sentences, set out in the form of a poem. The story wasn’t bad, but the whole thing seemed contrived and awkward. Some of the other stories displayed an equivalent awkwardness in their (failed) effort to be clever or poetic. It’s a shame, because much of the material was good. Only one of the stories was really weak, though the final story drags on well after its point is made.
All in all, well worth reading (and it’s free!) for several very good stories. I can see re-reading some of the stories here, though others I may well skip the next time around.