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Clockwork Phoenix 3: New Tales of Beauty and Strangeness Paperback – July 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Allen's third volume of extraordinary short stories reaches new heights of rarity and wonder. Marie Brennan sets the bar high with "The Gospel of Nachash," a fine reinterpretation of the Adam and Eve legend from a fresh perspective. Tori Truslow's scholarly "Tomorrow Is Saint Valentine's Day" tells the story of the Great Ice Train and its encounter with the merfolk on the Moon. Gemma Files's "Hell Friend" and C.S.E. Cooney's "Braiding the Ghost" are sinister, spine-tingling ghost stories. Cat Rambo deals with realism and escapism in her futuristic "Surrogates," where appearances and reality are mutable. Shweta Narayan's "Eyes of Carven Emerald" eloquently rewrites the history of Alexander the Great to include mechanical entities. Without a wrong note, all the stories in this anthology admirably fulfill Allen's promise of "beauty and strangeness."
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With a balance of new names and established authors, the third Clockwork Phoenix installment collects some magnificent interpretations of fantastic ideas. “The Gospel of Nachash” opens, Marie Brennan’s haunting tale of the beginning of time, and a very interesting reinterpretation of a gospel it is, too. Tanith Lee’s “Fold” is a story of a man who wrote love letters to the people he saw passing beneath his window, and only left his apartment once. Gemma Files’ “Hell Friend” is really a heart-warming ghost story; Georgina Bruce’s “Crow Voodoo” is an unnerving take on something common to fairy tales; and Gregory Frost’s “Lucyna’s Gaze” starts off sweet, and grows more awful with every revealed detail. Clockwork Phoenix delivers on its promise of both beauty and strangeness, and adds in some fright and a few new ways of looking at old tropes. All in all, it’s a very successful collection of thematically similar, but wildly varied in subject, works. --Regina Schroeder
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Top Customer Reviews
"Tomorrow Is Saint Valentine's Day" by Tori Truslow is about merpeople who live on the moon, "the moist star," and a researcher who goes to live among them. The ending last two sentences were like a silent thunderclap that changed my perpective on it all, and I immediately had to go back and re-read the story. (Same with "Fold.") It's told in a scholarly voice and dense albeit beautiful prose, and on the first reading I didn't get it.
"Crow Voodoo" by Georgina Bruce is an almost painful, piercing tale about a crow who peddles magic to a desperate young woman.
"Braiding the Ghosts" by C.S.E. Cooney is about a girl whose grandmother teaches her how to enslave ghosts.
"Lineage" by Kenneth Schneyer was a surprise favorite, about interconnected historic scenes where, in extreme circumstances, people act strange, almost possessed. You think you know what's happening, and then the last sentence puts a cherry on top. I near teared up.
"Eyes of Carven Emerald" by Shweta Narayan is a retelling of Alexander the Great's story. I hated seeing this one end, although one of the longer stories at 23 pages, and wanted to see it go on much longer. I'd love to see a novel version.
"To Seek Her Fortune" by Nicole Kornher-Stace reads like another a mini-novel, about a Lady Explorer on a flying sentient ship, obsessed with visiting psychics and mystics to find an answer to a critical question.
"Fold" by Tanith Lee - about a man who lives in a tower and spends his days gazing at the people on the street below, falling passionately in love with them and sending them love letters on paper airplanes. This is the last story of the volume and the perfect closing piece. Loved it, had to immediately read it again.
"Surrogates" by Cat Rambo was also good, as was "Lucyana's Gaze" by Gregory Frost (very good in fact, but too mundane for my tastes - not enough fantasy elements, and the subject matter was too heavy). My favorites are Tanith Lee and Shweta Narayan and Kenneth Schneyer and...
In conclusion, if you're going to read one short story collection this year, this is it. These stories are dark, strange, beautiful, sad, joyous, moving, fresh and original. An exceptional book.