This is Elizabeth Hand's long-awaited collection of short stories, centered around her Nebula
and World Fantasy Award-winning novella The Last Summer at Mars Hill
. There are 12 pieces in all here, ranging from those first published in places like Interzone
to a two-page poem taken from the pages of Asimov's
. Although many readers may be familiar with Hand's longer works, such as Glimmering
or Waking the Moon
, here she shows that she's a master of short fiction as well. Her stylish prose and keen insights make for some wonderful stories. --Craig E. Engler
From Publishers Weekly
What shines through nearly all of the 11 stories and one poem in this fine collection, besides the beautiful writing, are healthy doses of skepticism about the intrinsic goodness of both mystical phenomena and scientific progress. The anthology opens with the title story (winner of the 1995 Nebula for Best Novella), a tale about spirituality, death and hope set in an artists' community in New England where strange phantoms with unknowable motives dwell. "The Erl-King" is filled with exploded pop-'60s images and the decadent aftermath of fame, providing an otherworldly answer to the question of why the core people involved with Warhol's factory imploded. "The Have-Nots" is one of the few stories here with a happy ending; it features an unnamed Elvis, a drunken waitress and a delicious and loving send-up of trailer-trash foibles and middle-class virtues. "In the Month of Athyr," one of Hand's admittedly rare attempts at writing SF in short form, presents a view of genetic advances as shady operations doomed to produce disaster and decay. "The Boy in the Tree" is an exceptionally grim tale about science battling pagan powers, with mental health the clear loser. The collection ends with "Prince of Flowers," Hand's first published story (10 years ago in Twilight Zone), and this familiar riff on exotic gods is the weakest entry. Each story is appended by an afterword; pithy, but informative, they present an upbeat portrait of Hand's influences and explicate how some of the stories prefigured novels (Waking the Moon, etc.). Poignant and terrifying by turns, this collection isn't for the easily shocked, but it will satisfy readers who long for rich prose and deep, dark dreams.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.