From Publishers Weekly
Love gets sealed with the sacrifice of a finger, monsters roam high school hallways and invisible dwarves function as angels of death on a city bus: the fantastical intertwines with the quotidian in James Van Pelt's Strangers and Beggars. The 17 stories, divided into four sections (Teaching, Love, Death, Time), contemplate modern dystopias, offering, in the words of Bruce Holland Rogers's introduction, stories of "things gone very wrong" that still manage to feel uplifting not "new maps of hell... [but] new maps out of hell..
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Foreboding stories rarely have upbeat endings, but Van Pelt's do. Edgy and usually creepy, they characteristically let a little light flicker at the end of their dark trajectories because Van Pelt thinks that people can, though they may not, solve their problems. When a teacher is finally caught by the immense spider that no one will remove from her classroom, she begins seeing her new situation as an opening to transcendence. When a businessman of the future doffs the "specs" that keep him perpetually tapped into the markets long enough for a tete-a-tete with his fiancee, he broaches, albeit unawares, the possibility that he can overcome his "infodiction." When Van Pelt re-presents Wells' Time Machine
from the point of view of the Eloi girl who becomes attached to the time traveler, he leaves her figuring out how the Eloi can protect themselves from the Morlocks. A refreshingly optimistic bunch of sf-inflected horror tales, all seductive or at least charming, with a futuristic baseball yarn as a delightful comic capper. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved