From Publishers Weekly
Brockmeier follows up the acclaimed The Brief History of the Dead
with a collection of 13 stories possessing the enchantment of his two children's books, but with adult twists. In the title story, Olivia lives in a little red cottage on an unnamed island and sells maps, umbrellas and candies to the tourists. She also sells prophylactics and believes that, in a glorious moment, she was abducted and examined by an alien Entity who came from the seventh layer of the universe. In a more O. Henryesque story, The Lives of the Philosophers, Jacob, a philosophy grad student, is trying to understand why certain great philosophers ceased to do philosophy. He finds the answer when his girlfriend, Audrey, becomes pregnant with a child he doesn't want. In The Air Is Full of Little Spots, the narrator, a presumably Afghan tribal woman, writes of her tribe's belief that we see the world only from the back, but at moments, by the grace of God, the world turns its face to us. While many characters reach such moments of clarity, the stories often falter when they do. At their best, though, the tales show Brockmeier's mastery of the tricky intersection between fantasy and realism. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Brockmeier’s widely praised short stories have appeared in the New Yorker and the O. Henry Prize Stories, among other well-known mainstream story venues. His frequent forays into speculative fiction, many of which are in this collection, ought to pique the interest of sf and contemporary fantasy fans as well. Star Trek buffs, for instance, will delight in “The Lady with the Pet Tribble,” which puts a futuristic spin on Chekhov’s famous tale about extramarital romance; just substitute tribble for dog in the title, and note that the love interest of its alien, starship captain protagonist has multiple husbands instead of just one. In “Father John Melby and the Ghost of Amy Elizabeth,” a pastor known for his dull sermons receives sudden evangelical power from a spirit he thinks is God but is only a lovelorn ghost. The title story recounts a lonely island girl’s encounter with an alien entity. Each carefully crafted tale filters insightful observations about life through a seductive screen of magical realism and alternates whimsy and wisdom. --Carl Hays