Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness Paperback – July 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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Leah Bobet's "Bell, Book and Candle", about three people who are tied into a rite, and who do not particularly enjoy this;
Vandana Singh's "Oblivion: A Journey", about a person pursuing revenge across a future heavily informed by Indian mythology, mapping their journey to that of Ram in the Ramayan;
Joanna Galbraith's "The Moon-Keeper's Friend", about a café owner who protects the moon;
Michael J DeLuca's "The Tarrying Messenger", which is about what it means to tarry, and to deliver a message;
and Cat Rambo's "The Dew Drop Coffee Lounge" and Catherynne M Valente's "The City of Blind Delight". I rather liked most of the others, such as those by David Sandner, Marie Brennan, Deborah Biancotti, Ekaterina Sedia and Jennifer Crow.
Very few anthologies have a success rate this high.
One thing I particularly liked about it is the diversity of influences. These stories are not all about North America and Western Europe, and the anthology is considerably strengthened by this fact.
There were some stories I liked less. Rape as a plot device pretty much immediately turns me off a story, and the instance in this anthology was no exception. Tanith Lee's had some distractingly hilarious sexual euphemisms, and the rest of the story didn't particularly engage. Two others were just boring. But I think most of my complaints lie closer to personal preference than indicating weakness with the story; overall, I really enjoyed this anthology, and I recommend it to readers of unusual fantasy.
I suspect that every person who reviews this will pick different stories as their favorites. I loved Cat Rambo's "The Dew Drop Coffee Lounge," the story of a place where assignations go awry, and how the universe seeks to ease the pain of broken dreams. Joanna Galbraith's "The Moon-Keeper's Friend" is a charming tale of two friends that brings the fantastic (and the moon) within man's reach. And Catherynne M. Valente's "The City of Blind Delight" mesemerized me with its lush imagery and fascinating possibilities.
If you're looking for well-written and thought-provoking stories, this is a wonderful place to start.
Editor Mike Allen has spoken of his impatience with the "traditional, conventionally-plotted and plainly-written Good Story Competently Told", and his longing for tales that experiment and take risks but also punch you in the gut with their emotional resonance. And has he ever achieved that ambition: these stories shimmer, they mislead, they subvert. They take your expectations, mangle them, ridicule them, and hand them back to you in a package with sparkly paper and pixies with teeth.
Read it if you dare.