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Stories: All-New Tales

Stories: All-New Tales - Lawrence Block, Richard Adams, Roddy Doyle, Jeffery Deaver, Chuck Palahniuk, Joyce Carol Oates, Diana Wynne Jones, Peter Straub, Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Swanwick, Tim Powers, Joanne Harris, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Stewart O'Nan, Jeffrey Ford, Walter Mosley,

Reviewing an anthology is not an easy task; almost no anthology is perfect. It's like that hackneyed proverbial box of chocolates: You never know what you're going to get when you start a new story. In this particular collection it's even more so, because it's all over the place, thematically speaking. It's not classic Tolkien-style "fantasy," but it's not really Gaiman-style "fantasy" either. In fact, towards the end, some of the pieces don't really have any fantastical elements at all, and feel more like classic literature than anything else.

The book starts off strong with stories that are engaging and imaginative, each a unique gem. It continues well up until the middle, but sadly, loses its vigor somewhere around the 70% mark. Kurt Andersen's Human Intelligence, page 363, is the last good story in the volume. It's followed by a trio of unfortunately tedious tales, including The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon, which is as pointless a short story as I've ever read. Not to dwell on the negative though -- this is really the tail end of the book, and what precedes it is mostly great.

In other words, do read this book, but save yourself the tedium that follows Andersen's beautiful tale. Up until that point, I'd warmly recommend this anthology.