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Tales of Pain and Wonder Paperback – January, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Each story in this definitive third edition of Kiernan's loosely linked collection stands alone as a visceral slice of life. While Anamorphosis and To This Water rely on the overdone menaces of pedophilia and rape, Bela's Plot (a four-time IHG award winner) establishes a delicate balance between the romance of decay and deliberately undercutting characters' gothic pretensions. Glass Coffin, Salammbô, Salmagundi, ...Between the Gargoyle Trees and the previously unpublished Salammbô Redux relate the history of sisters Salmagundi and Salammbô Desvernine and their disturbed and disturbing extended family. Paedomorphosis and Rats Live on No Evil Star approach closest to classic horror, driven by revulsion and fear of the alien, while in Estate, a human terrorizes a supernatural creature, and San Andreas relies on pure human nature for its shuddery effect. Together, the impact of these stories is stunning: glancing collisions between psychics, runaways, junkies, artists and whores (who, as in Kiernan's Silk, function as a loose alternative to a family) add up to a portrait of something broken and beautiful. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Meisha Merlin Publishing, Inc.; 2 edition (January 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189206538X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892065384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,177,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Caitlin R. Kiernan was born near Dublin, Ireland, but has spent most of her life in the southeastern United States. In college, she studied zoology, geology, and palaeontology, and has been employed as a vertebrate palaeontologist and college-level biology instructor. The results of her scientific research have been published in the JOURNAL OF VERTEBRATE PALAEONTOLOGY, THE JOURNAL OF PALAEONTOLOGY and elsewhere. In 1992, she began writing her first novel, THE FIVE OF CUPS (it remained unpublished until 2003). Her first published novel, SILK (1998), earned her two awards and praise from critics and such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Poppy Z. Brite. Her next novel, THRESHOLD (2001), was also an award-winner, and since then she has written LOW RED MOON (2003), MURDER OF ANGELS (2004), DAUGHTER OF HOUNDS (2007), and, forthcoming, THE RED TREE. She is a prolific short fiction author, and her award-winning short stories have been collected in TALES OF PAIN AND WONDER (2000), WRONG THINGS (with Poppy Z. Brite; 2001), FROM WEIRD AND DISTANT SHORES (2002), and TO CHARLES FORT, WITH LOVE (2005), ALABASTER (2006), FROG TOES AND TENTACLES (2005), TALES FROM THE WOEFUL PLATYPUS (2007), and, most recently, the sf collection, A IS FOR ALIEN (2009). She has also scripted comics for DC/Vertigo, including THE DREAMING ('97-'01), THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE DEATH ('98), and BAST: ETERNITY GAME ('03). Her short sf novel THE DRY SALVAGES was published in 2004, and has published numerous chapbooks since 2000. Caitlin also fronted the goth-rock band Death's Little Sister in 1996-1997, once skinned a lion, and likes sushi. She lives in Providence, RI with her partner, Kathryn, and her two cats, Hubero and Smeagol. Caitlin is represented by Writer's House (NYC) and United Talent Agency (LA).

Customer Reviews

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Her unusual take on plots works best in the short story format, at least in my opinion.
Amazon Customer
I'm giving this book five stars, because the writing and artwork are deserving of high praise, despite the publisher's shoddy packaging of the collection.
Sutton Cassill
Scholars of fantastic fiction should take note: Caitlin R. Kiernan is one of the few important voices in genre today.
James Knox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James Knox on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Caitlin R. Kiernan's magnificent first short fiction collection, TALES OF PAIN AND WONDER, is a dazzling triumph for dark fantasy. The author blends elements of horror and terror (the Gothic), noir, and hints of Lovecraftian sci-fi, for stories that are utterly unique in their scope and tone. Kiernan has established herself as the premiere stylist of dark fiction and nowhere does her talent and skill with words shine more brightly than in this accomplished collection. An informed and conscientious reader doesn't need the introduction by Douglas Winter or the afterword by Peter Straub to tell him that this book is something special. each page - indeed, each sentence - declares that fact. Many of the stories are linked by recurring characters and related events, and even the unconnected stories are related to the others in theme, so that TALES OF PAIN AND WONDER becomes almost a sort of pseudo-novel. With these stories, Kiernan explores the disintegration of society, faith, humanity, and, indeed, the fabric of the world itself, offering a lonely and disturbing view of the survivors. These stories frighten, strike awe, sadden, inspire wonder, and even offer slim bits of hope, but they never merely entertain. Scholars of fantastic fiction should take note: Caitlin R. Kiernan is one of the few important voices in genre today.
That said, the Meisha Merlin edition is a disappointment, a shoddy, unprofessional effort with one of the most garish and inappropriate covers I've seen in ages. The interior layout is slipshod, Richard Kirk's gorgeous interior illustrations are reproduced a bit to darkly, and the book is marred by errors that would have been eliminated from a more skillful printing. I encourage readers who can't afford the pricey Gauntlet hardback to pick up this edition - it's far better than nothing - but I regret that Kiernan's masterwork has been done such a disservice.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sutton Cassill on April 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Caitlin R. Kiernan's TALES OF PAIN AND WONDER is easily one of the most important collection of dark fiction in years. These stories rank with the best of Ligotti, Campbell, Lovecraft, and Bradbury, and it's great to see them finally available in an inexpensive trade paperback. Hopefully Kiernan's exquisitely-penned stories of Salmagundi Desvernine and Jimmy DeSade will find a wider readership now. However, buyers should be warned that this edition is inferior to the Gauntlet hardback in several respects. To start with, the awful cover, which is as misrepresentative of Kiernan's work as possible. Also there are many more typos in the edition, including some that make reading the book difficult at times. If you can afford it, buy the hardback. If not, at least this edition does include all of Richard Kirk's beautiful artwork. I'm giving this book five stars, because the writing and artwork are deserving of high praise, despite the publisher's shoddy packaging of the collection.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Emily Peeples on April 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Caitlin R. Kiernan's Tales of Pain and Wonder is a superb volume, and is requisite reading for all afficianados of dark fiction. However, I was very disappointed in the quality of this edition and prefer the hardback. From the garish cover to a text fraught with printer's errors, the paperback does a disservice to Kiernan's exquisite prose.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Tales of Pain & Wonder' is a collection of Caitlin Kiernan's earlier work (if one is allowed to speak of the late 1990's as 'late'). As such, it presents many of Kiernan's important themes as they appear for the first time. Characters surface for the first time as well, in particular Deacon Silvey who will show up again in two novels, 'Threshold' and 'Low Red Moon.' This makes the collection 'important' if you are a Kiernan aficionado, but all that aside, what really makes this collection important is that it is very, very good.
I have lately come to refer to Kiernan as the 'last of the great horror writers.' Partially as a lament for a genre that currently spends far too much time specializing in hot, romantic vampire novels, but also because she really is good enough that writers of her caliber are far and few between. Hers is a horror that leaks out of the spaces between things and pervades the atmosphere surrounding her characters, clinging to them like a faint scent of doubt and rot. Yet when its time finally comes, it is sure and brutal, sparing no unkindness.
Kiernan's characters exist on the fine edge of self-destructiveness, whether they come from wealth like the sisters Salammbo and Salmagundi, hypnotized by the beauty of death like Lark and Crispin, or, like Jimmy de Sade, have both feet firmly planted in terror so real it is an aesthetic experience. The confront things they cannot understand, or know far too well, living the kind of homeless or disconnected lives that make them lightning rods for real horror, not the candy-coated-sip-your-blood kind.
Kiernan admits in her forward that the book has two narratives, one is the accident of the order of writing, and the other is a natural order where the interconnections among the tales is more obvious.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "postman101" on April 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This fantastic signed limited book (signed by Keirnan, Peter Straub, Douglas Winter and Artist Richard KirK) takes you into this world that you didn't know existed. In some cases, you don't want to have existed but in your heart these people you meet are real, enough to touch, smell and get smeared by the blood they produce. They live their own existence outside ours and you take their lives in this book and read about them in one sitting, drawn in as characters re-occur after knowing the night of Pain they experienced and the drugs and alcohol they need to continue. Except they don't know that, this is their life and we are granted an instant with them. Ms. Keirnan even gives an alternate table of contents which allows you to read the stories as they were written if that interests you. The formation of one of the strongest new prose writers to come our way. This Gauntlet Limited is a fantastic blend of Keirnans stories and one you should not miss.
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